I was walking through our mall last week and thought of an old Doonesbury cartoon: Michael J. sits ensconced in his easy chair watching TV. After loud shouts and the sounds of gun fighting the announcer says, “This concludes our regular broadcast day. Stay tuned for film clips of the Marines, a story from the life of Jesus and our National Anthem.” Doonesbury gets to his feet and joins in the singing of the anthem.
There you have it—the good, old American way: Equal time for everything and everybody. Nothing is special any more, not even Jesus, who, if we acknowledge at all, we place in a cluster of traditions.
Especially at Christmas. We keep the Christ–child around to grace an occasional manger, but he’s merely one symbol among many: Rudolph, Scrooge, St. Nicholas and his elves, toy soldiers, little drummer boys, shepherds, angels, Christmas trees, Yule logs and Jesus, all vie for our attention; everything alongside everything else. The Son of God gets lost in the Yuletide clutter.
Melissa knows better. She’s one our grandchildren. Some years ago, Carolyn and I took her to the Festival of the Trees—an event here Boise in which businesses and organizations decorate Christmas trees, competing with one another in various categories. The display is magnificent.
We were enchanted by the grandeur of the hall as we moved from one tree to the next, pointing and exclaiming. But Melissa soon lost interest, surfeited by splendor, until she came to a small manger scene and there she paused transfixed.
Nothing else mattered—not the magnificently decorated trees, not Santa Claus who was nearby and beckoning and not even an incredible talking tree. She was captivated by the Child.
We tried our best to urge her on—we wanted to see the trees—but she lingered behind, wanting to hold the baby, pressing closer to him despite the ribbon stretched around the cradle, keeping her away.
Finally, she agreed to leave, albeit reluctantly, looking back over her shoulder to get a glimpse of the crèche through the trees. And as we were leaving the building Melissa tugged on my hand and asked, “Papa can we go see the baby?” We returned to the manger and waited while she gazed long and longingly at the Child.
As Melissa adored Him, I marveled at her simplicity. Unlike her, I often fail to see Jesus for the trees.
“There are some things worth being a child to get hold of again,” George MacDonald said. “Make me a child again,” I prayed, “at least for tonight.”