In recent years giant inflatables have become popular.
Inflatables are available in myriad variety: Santas, Grinches, Snowmen, snow families, and of course Christmas minions, and the famous Christmas dragon with a Santa hat (because nothing says Christmas like a dragon!).
The inflatables look great and robust, and they can be massive -- until it snows!!
When my wife and I went out for a walk in the first snow of the season, we came across many of these inflatables in our neighborhood. And although I had assumed the fallen snow would only enhance their beauty and grandeur, every one of them was crushed under the weight of the snow.
Santa was no longer jolly. The snowman was flattened.
The irony was not lost on me.
The very season they promoted crushed them, and they could not stand up under its weight.
They were flattened by the season they represented.
Fortunately, these symbols of joy, peace, and love do not stand on their own!
They are supported by the beautiful story of the incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us.
Without the strength of that story, the season of Christmas, with all its busyness and ritual, would crush us.
Without the sustenance of its story, the Christmas season itself becomes a difficult burden to stand up under.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1,14, NIV).
In 1882, in a townhouse at 136 East 36th Street in New York City, Edward Hibberd Johnson had an idea that would make him the unsung set decorator of a zillion holiday snapshots. Although Christmas trees became popular between 1840 and 1870, what really made them were the candles. While they were festive, they were also a fire hazard.
Johnson, who worked with Thomas Edison, set up a tree by the street side window of their store. Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white, and blue light bulbs, strung them together around the tree, and placed the trunk of the tree on a revolving pedestal, all powered by a generator. The lights drew a crowd as passersby stopped to gaze at the glowing marvel. Johnson turned this and the practice of doing more each year into a tradition.
At that time, a string of 16 vaguely flame-shaped bulbs sitting in brass sockets the size of shot glasses sold for $12 - about $350 in today’s money. By 1914, that same set cost just $1.75. By the 1930s, colored bulbs and cones were everywhere.
Today, an estimated 150 million light sets are sold in America each year, adding to the tangled millions stuffed into boxes each January. They light 80 million homes and consume 6 percent of the nation’s electrical load each December. And though the contagious joy of these lights has been co-opted orange at Halloween, and red at Valentine's Day, it all started with Johnson’s miracle on 36th Street.
The first Christmas light was a star that led some people to Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. That light was prophesied over 700 years before by the prophet Isaiah.
There is always violence, injustice, abuse of power, homelessness, refugees fleeing oppression, families being ripped apart, and bottomless grief. December is the darkest time of the year.
If we look only to the earth and human resources, the darkness only gets worse. The world is a dark place, and we will not find our way or see reality unless the Source, Jesus, is our Light (v.2c; upon the world a light has dawned; not from the world).
"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine" (Isaiah 9:2, NIV).
Efforts to scrub Christianity from our culture, even our history are growing exponentially in this post-Christian era. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ever widening epidemic of the vandalizing and theft of Christmas Nativity scenes, specifically the theft of Baby Jesus. Just look at these recent headlines.
- Vintage Baby Jesus, other nativity props stolen from Alexander County church
- Grinch Strikes Again, Baby Jesus is Missing – Again!
- Stolen Baby Jesus returned to local restaurant’s Nativity scene
- Surprising number of people stealing baby Jesus from nativity scene
- Baby Jesus stolen from nativity scene in Solihull
- Statue of baby Jesus stolen from Grosse Pointe Farms church's nativity display
And here’s a particularly sad one …
- "So Much Hatred': Vandals Smash Ancient Church's Nativity Scene, Decapitate Joseph Figurine in 'Barbaric' Attack
Then there’s this one which went viral just this week, as the thieves were caught on camera absconding with the the Christ child figurine …
- Man Runs Off With Baby Jesus Stolen From Sundance Square Nativity Scene
Some people are are giving up and just not putting out their annual displays. Others are looking for a solution, and even for protection. As one news station has reported:
As Christmas approaches, many people are looking for divine intervention, or in some cases insurance to prevent more trouble in Bethlehem. "There is a company that will insure your manger set. There's a company that has a special ‘baby Jesus’ rider for churches and for stores,” said Pastor James Carney of Seattle Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, whose church display has been vandalized repeatedly.
They cannot hide Him; they cannot dismiss Him; they cannot diminish Him; they cannot extinguish Him. Try as they may, they cannot rob the world of Baby Jesus.
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it" (John 1:5, NLT).