Christmas 2016

When I was growing up, the Christmas tree was never completely finished until we ran it through my mom’s squint test. All you had to do is squint your eyes so that the colored Christmas lights came out of focus just enough to form a halo around the bulb. My mom’s squint test would make it easy to see where there were too many light bunched up or where lights needed to be moved closer together. The tree was never fully complete until the Christmas lights were evenly placed throughout the entire tree.


          When you watch a Christmas move or sitcom you will see it. When you send or receive Christmas cards you will encounter it. Maybe on Christmas Eve with the glow of a lit candle in hour hand while softly singing “Son of God, love’s pure light; radiant beams from thy holy face…” you will experience it. Cameras magically come out of focus. Artists soften and blur their images. Our hearts sentimentalize the Christmas experience as we squint our eyes (often without knowing it.)


          Dag Hammarskjold once said, “How proper it is that Christmas should follow Advent-for [anyone] who looks toward the future, the Manger is situated on Golgotha, and the Cross has already been raised in Bethlehem.” That first Christmas morn was a beautifully crystal clear moment not to be lost in sentimental overtures to the purpose of why Christ came into our brutally dark world.


          On Christmas Day, 1626, worshipers at St. Peter’s Cathedral in London must have been startled when the dean of the cathedral, John Donne began his sermon in this way:

The whole life of Christ was a continual passion. Others die martyrs; but Christ was born a martyr. He found Golgotha [where he was crucified] even in Bethlehem, where he was born. For, to his tenderness then, the straws were as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first has his cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act; and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. And even as his birth is his death, so every action and passage that manifests Christ to us is his birth. (Lawrence Hull Stookey,This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer.

Squinting your eyes to see the halo of Christmas lights on your tree is one thing. However, as Christians let us keep our eyes wide open, so that we don’t miss how Christ appears to us this Christmas season. May we mindfully and prayerfully ponder the mysteries of mysteries—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May we celebrate with deep gratitude and exuberant joy in our hearts in all our festivities. May we “See Him as He is”—without our eyes being squinted (1 John 3:2).


Merry Christmas,

 Nicholas Perry,


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