The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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          “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” was the opening statement for an invitation that I received recently via email. This familiar phrase has been circulating at least since 1951 when Meredith Willson penned the words to the popular song sung and recorded by a host of well-known musicians. Originally entitled “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas,” this song purports to offer insights into what Christmas looks like.                             According to the song’s lyrics, understanding what Christmas looks like is observable “everywhere you go.” The song highlights the Sights of Christmas as taking “a look at the five and ten, it’s glistening once again with candy canes and silver lanes that glow.” While I recognize that this song was written over 70 years ago and 5 & 10 (nickel and dime) stores have been replaced by a variety of dollar stores (talk about inflation) and other discount retailers, I fail to understand how stores that glisten with candy canes and glowing aisles adequately represent Christmas. In addition to the candy canes and silver lanes, “toys in every store” also provides a perspective on what Christmas looks like while “the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be on your own front door.”  
          In fairness to Meredith Willson, nothing seems to have changed in the past seven decades as the sights of Christmas that appear everywhere you go in contemporary society do, in fact, closely resemble the focus of those sights presented in her song. Stores are adorned with Christmas-themed decorations and displays in early October each year. Shelves become laden with extra gadgets and gizmos that are touted as “must haves” and “the latest and greatest” gift for that special someone in your life. Impressive light displays and yard décor that beckon neighbors to “ooh” and “aah” over the sheer magnitude of the presentation often are part-and-parcel of the sights of present-day Christmas.
          As I reflected in the words to “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and the sights of Christmas presented therein, I began to consider the Sounds of Christmas. If a song is deemed capable of distinguishing what Christmas looks like, I began to wonder what does Christmas sound like? In other words, does Christmas have any discernible sounds that may offer a hint of the time of year circled on the calendar? Certainly, the laughter and merriment of family gathered together is an enjoyable sound of Christmas. The crunch of snow underfoot for those living in colder climates may be a sound of Christmas. The lyrics to Willson’s song indicate that “soon the bells will start and the thing that will make ‘em ring is the carol that you sing, right within your heart.” Bells and singing certainly can help usher in the Christmas season. Many of the carols being sung, however, have the popular flavor of a secular society. Songs such as “Frosty the Snowman,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” come to mind.
          According to Luke 2, the first Christmas was much different than the culturally conditioned Christmas to which we have become accustomed. The sights of this first Christmas included “shepherds living out in the fields” near Bethlehem who were “keeping watch over their flocks at night.” The sights of the first Christmas also included “an angel of the Lord” who appeared to these shepherds and the accompanying “glory of the Lord that shone round about them” while “a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel.…” The response of the shepherds did not include half-hearted “oohs” and “aahs,” but awe-inspired fear. That first Christmas looked like a newborn baby “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” who had the full attention of parents who lovingly nurtured their child.
          While the sounds of that first Christmas may have included the bleating of sheep, the bellowing and grunting of cattle, and the braying of donkeys, the words of the angel “Fear not” and “I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people” resounded across the fields and countryside where the shepherds tended their flocks. The sounds of Christmas on that particular night were the earth-shattering and history-altering words spoken by the angel “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” The sounds of Christmas continued with a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” I am convinced that the praise of the heavenly host sounded more like “Joy to the World,” “O, Come All Ye Faithful,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” “There’s a Song in the Air,” and “Good Christian Men Rejoice” than “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Run, Rudolph, Run” or “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”  
          Too often a well-decorated tree with gifts stacked neatly underneath is the focal point of Christmas for many people. The focal point of the first Christmas, however, was a baby in a manger. To anyone and everyone that recognizes the true significance of Christmas and who receives by faith the good news presented in the sights and sounds of that first Christmas, God “gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). While some people may be disappointed with the gifts they receive (or do not receive) at Christmas, those who respond sincerely to the Gift born in a manger will never be disappointed. And, unlike those who consider Christmas to be concluded shortly after leftover food has been refrigerated, wrapping paper bagged for garbage pickup, and the decorations stored until the next December, those who grasp the blessings presented on that first Christmas will have “a carol in your heart” throughout the year-round. Like the shepherds who, having met with Jesus, returned to their routine changed by the sights and sounds of Christmas, Christians celebrate Christmas continually by ”glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen…” in both their worship and their witness.  

          What does Christmas look like in your home and heart? Have you made room for the Savior… the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? After all, “the prettiest sight to see is my Jesus who will be living in your heart.”

Dear Heavenly Father, May my celebration of Christmas this year and every year be focused on the Christ-child. Through my worship and my witness allow me to share Jesus with a world that is desperate need of a Savior.  Amen.