The Imagery of Christmas

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By Davalynn Spencer @davalynnspencer

One man’s idea of born-in-a-barn is the forerunner of some of our contemporary Christmas décor. Tradition says this man was so disturbed by the secular materialism around Christmas, that he staged a living nativity scene or crèche to draw attention to the birth of Christ. No glitz, no glitter. Just a couple of animals, some hay, and a baby in a feed trough set up in a cave near Greccio, Italy. 

That was 800 years ago, and Friar Francis of Assisi was on to something. However, secular materialism didn’t go away. I wonder what Francis would think today of our inflatable snowmen, Santas, and reindeer?

Different cultures celebrate the birth of Christ in different ways. I enjoy the feel-good memories stirred by the aroma of freshly cut pine trees, hot eggnog, and just-baked sugar cookies. And like Francis of Assisi, I cherish the nativity scenes I’ve collected over the years.

One is a Christmas tree ornament of Mary riding a donkey led by Joseph. One is a set of wooden nesting boxes called Matryoshka in Russian, or babushka dolls elsewhere. Another is comprised of beautifully life-like statues, but my favorite is made up of old plaster figurines now chipped and faded that my mother let me set up each Christmas on the coffee table.

However, none of my manger scenes is as realistic as the first one in Greccio, Italy. Likely, no mother volunteered her new-born that Christmas to depict Christ in Francis’s living nativity, but neither do my scenes accurately portray a newborn babe. Each child’s head is covered with wavy hair or golden curls, arms lifted as if in blessing, and an angelic smile kissing his features.

Those of us who have seen newborns know this is not an accurate portrayal.

Of baby Jesus, Scripture says that Mary “wrapped him in swaddling clothes …” (Luke 2:7), which means she wrapped her child snuggly in cloths, a technique still used around the world today to comfort a newborn.

But we want beautiful imagery, not realism, right? In birth as well as death.

My jewelry collection contains several cross earrings and necklaces. This imagery reminds me of Jesus, but it certainly doesn’t portray his suffering or the ugliness of the death-tree upon which he hung.

The picturesque crown of thorns I display at Easter brings to mind the twisted brambles shoved upon the Savior’s brow in mockery.

Over the years, the imagery has all come together in my home. Baby Jesus was born to die.

For me. For all of us.

Despite the lack of visual authenticity, Christmas is my favorite holiday—not because of the beautiful lights, trees, and nativity scenes, but because it flaunts the defeat of our enemy by a newborn.

Jesus at His most vulnerable point could not be bested by Satan.

This fact reminds me that in spite of what the enemy or circumstances hurl at me, God is still in control. He’s got this and, therefore, Joy To the World!

Joy to you this Christmas!

For unto to you
is born this day
in the city of David
a Savior,
which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11


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Anticipation hung in Ara’s heart like diamond icicles, sparkling and pure. Cradled as they were on the breast of the mountain, glitter and glamour didn’t fill the house. Instead, the special care given to selected recipes and homemade gifts graced this home. The scent of cider and cinnamon and cloves curtained the kitchen, and star-shaped cookies winked from red yarn on the popcorn-and cranberry-laced spruce.

Another snowfall had chased her out of her calico dress. She shrugged into a sheepskin coat and tucked the borrowed denims into her boot tops before making her way to the barn with the scrap can. 

Just inside the barn’s wide door, she paused by a new wooden manger filled with fresh hay as if awaiting a heavenly guest. Bending to breathe in the grassy perfume, she closed her eyes and marveled at the simple pleasure. A scuffling step said Buck was near.

“It’s an offering.” He stopped beside her and fluffed the hay with his large, rough hands. “He came to stockmen, you know. Like us. And His ma made His bed in a barn.”

Ara’s heart warmed at Buck’s uncharacteristic tenderness. “It’s a wonderful gift. Exactly what the Christ child would need.”

His thick brows rose with hope. “You really think so?”

“Of course. Warmth and shelter and love. The same things we all need. I’m sure He would have been most comfortable in this crib you’ve made.”

A smile puffed out his whiskers, and Ara swallowed a laugh. Such pleasure in a modest gift made from what one had at hand. ~The Snowbound Bride

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2 thoughts on “The Imagery of Christmas

  1. Karen Gee

    God orchestrated the birth of Jesus not as a king, but a baby born to a Virgin. God became flesh that glorious night. He had humble beginnings. But his purpose was to teach us the Truth and then sacrifice himself willingly on the cross to redeem us from our sins. He has invited each and everyone of us to live in eternity with him and the Father. Jesus is the only way to receive this promise.
    Wishing everyone a very merry and blessed Christmas.

    1. davalynn

      Yes, Karen. Such an unpredictable victory!


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