"Whether it be a joyful visual reminder or a difficult one, God desires to draw our hearts and minds again to Christ this Christmas through the decorations."

Christmas wreaths. Christmas trees. Christmas lights. Mistletoe. Garland. Ornaments. Advent calendars. Stockings. Nativity scenes. We all have Christmas decorations. Maybe you go all out and deck every single hall. Maybe you’re a classic minimalist who simply decorates with a Christmas card on the fridge. But what’s the point? Why do we decorate? And, does decorating have anything to do with Jesus?

Just as music audibly signals to us the presence of a unique season, decorations do so visually. I don’t mean to defend this guy—sometimes decoration is just vanity. But I do think there ought to be a place for appropriate, beautiful, personal decorations that, like our music, provide reminders of both nostalgia and the reality of God made flesh.

Many of our decorations ought to point our eyes and our minds to the story of Christ. We can tell and retell the story of the gospel through symbols that adorn our houses, apartments, or cubicles. Uniquely Christ-centered decorations provide a contrast to the setting we are used to seeing in our homes and can provide a fresh reminder of who Christ is, what he has done, and what that means for our lives. Decorating for Christmas provides a powerful opportunity to meditate on these realities in a unique way this time of year.

Some of our other decorations are meaningful not because of their uniquely Christian content or symbolism but because of their nostalgia. I discussed this last week in regards to nostalgic Christmas music. In the same way, the visual reminder of times worth remembering can serve a powerful purpose during Christmas. Of course, in a fallen world, not all nostalgia is good. But that doesn’t mean that the fallen parts of the past ought to be the source of our meditation.

One of my favorite decorations that floats around our house these days is an old Santa hat with red felt letters on the front that reads “Harp.” This hat hung in my grandparents home every Christmas season of my entire life. My grandparents hosted a large Christmas dinner where the entire extended family would join together (almost) every year. It was the singular setting of my entire childhood of Christmases. The hat was something my mom was given during her freshman year at college (her maiden name was Harper), that ended back at her parents place as a staple of the Christmas collection.

In the last six years, both my grandfather and my grandmother passed away and the home where that hat hung every year was sold. My mother has also passed away, and every year when I see the hat I’m reminded of her. The hat could be a reminder of all that Christmas no longer is, but I don’t believe that’s what any of them would have wanted. For me, the hat is a reminder, a nostalgic reminder, that we will celebrate together again one day. It is a reminder that, even if some of my loved ones aren’t there (which breaks my heart), I will celebrate one day with my heavenly father with a feast and a family reunion that will never end. Nostalgic decorations point to the joy of family on earth, but they also remind us of the “not yet” reality of life here as well. Sometimes nostalgic decorations can remind us of what we lost, or even of what we never had…but God seeks to redeem even this.

Whether it be a joyful visual reminder or a difficult one, God desires to draw our hearts and minds again to Christ this Christmas through the decorations, through the symbols, and through the bright lights that remind us of how we are called to shine in a dark world that so desperately needs the light and joy of Christmas.

Scott Mehl

Scott serves the church by overseeing leadership, development, global ministries, and counseling/discipleship.

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