My neighbor complained every day for months about his vision. "I need some new eyeglasses."
At last, he went to see his eye doctor and came home with discouraging news. "She said new glasses won't make any difference at all. It would be a waste of money."
The next morning, though, he came back with a surprise. "I didn't need new glasses at all. I got me some alcohol and wiped my glasses down. It cleaned them right up and now I can see again."
We laughed over the months spent complaining about bad eyeglasses when the problem was dirty eyeglasses, but it's not an uncommon problem.
The clarity of the lens through which we look makes a bigger difference than we realize, doesn't it?
When the lens of our heart is clouded, it changes our perspective on everything.
Viewing Christmas through a cloud of entitlement and aesthetics radically changes our focus.
Instead of focusing on the Son of God wrapped in flesh and sent to save us from our sin, we (all too often) focus on perfecting the traditions of the season.
If our decorations are prepared in order to make our homes look festive instead of point people to Christ, are they about Christmas, the birth of Christ, or about December?
There's nothing wrong with greenery, sparkling lights, or festive displays. There's nothing wrong with celebrating memories of friends and family, but let's look at the hoopla that surrounds this season with clarity. Some of what we do is about aesthetics, making a beautiful display. Some of what we do is about entitlement, buying gifts because they are "deserved" or because we always buy gifts in December.
Is it wrong to decorate for aesthetics? Is it wrong to give gifts? No, I don't think so. What's wrong is decorating for aesthetics but telling ourselves we are doing it because of Jesus.
Let's clear our vision a bit and look at the why behind what we do this holiday season.
I've decided to put up a December tree. My tree is not an act of worship for Jesus, but it's loaded with happy memories and sparkle and glitter. I'm putting greenery on my mantel. It's not an act of worship for Jesus, either, but I like the smell of cedar as it mingles with the fragrance of oak burning in the fireplace. Neither are truly about the birth of Christ, but I like them and there's nothing wrong with them. I like my reindeer and candy cane flannel sleep pants, too, but they aren't about Jesus, even though I wear them in December.
Over the next few weeks, I will listen to Christmas music that is focused on Jesus and holiday music that is focused on snow and sleigh rides and silver bells. It's important to recognize that the first music is about Christmas and the second music is about something else entirely.
My nativity set is truly about the birth of Christ. My advent wreath, despite the mismatched and crooked candles, is also about Jesus.
I will give gifts this season, just like I always do. They will, for the most part, be because of the love in my heart for the person to whom they are given and not because I am giving to Jesus.
Let's clear our vision a bit and look at our holiday celebrations and traditions. Some are about tradition and holidays and some are about Christmas. Traditions have their place and holidays are great fun, and it's not wrong to enjoy them, but let's recognize them for what they are.
Believe it or not, a clearer look will make it much easier to focus on Christ this Christmas. After all, He's what Christmas is all about.
In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links: Grateful Heart: Wonder Pickle, Grateful Heart: Family, Beginning the Advent Journey, Finding Christmas: The Best Advent of All, Finding Christmas: Something Better than Stuff, Finding Christmas: Setting a Goal, and Finding Christmas: When Life is Less than Perfect.
The most read post of the last week: Grateful Heart: Family.