I don’t get bent out of shape over a lot of things. But I can be a bit obsessive about two things. One: I want my lawn cut in straight lines. Two: I prefer Christmas tree ornaments have definite linear patterns. Simply said, I like “symmetry.”
My obsession was kicked off the pedestal one year when one of our granddaughters was all in for decorating the tree. As you can imagine, the lights and ornaments were strung with careless abandon…oops, with lots of care. After a mild panic attack (slightly overstated), and reminder from my dear wife this was my granddaughter’s decorations, I settled down for a long winter’s nap. Life is good when the granddaughter is giggling with joy over the wonderful Christmas tree she decorated.
My Christmas decoration obsession was challenged again and again when our churches were decorated for Christmas in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa. Symmetry was not a major concern in preparing the church for the Christmas celebration. Having and using affordable, available, and hangable (probably not a word) items was top priority.
I learned through my years in Africa to not just accept their way of decorating, but sincerely appreciate and admire the creativity and commitment demanded to make something beautiful and God-honoring out of the simplest of available materials. I quickly discovered toilet paper, construction paper, and anything shiny worked just fine as decorations.
Even more so, I learned their focus wasn’t on fancy decorations, high-level play productions, cantatas, parties, fancy-wrapped gifts, elaborately-decorated Christmas trees, and constant hustle and bustle. The main focal points of their celebration were Christ and being with other believers.
Since moving back to the States in 2011, as Christmas comes around each year, I find myself nostalgic for those Christ-focused Christmas seasons in Côte d’Ivoire and less obsessed with the symmetry of the Christmas tree.
May the Christ of Christmas be the focus of your celebrations!