It was early Sunday morning and I was on my way to preach at one of our fine churches. Thanksgiving had passed and the date was December 1. My journey on that Sunday morning took me down some roads that I do not travel every day. I was just looking at the landscape and keeping my eye on the road. Then I saw a house just off of the road sitting on what appeared to be several acres of land. Then I noticed something very unusual. It was probably what called my attention to the house. For all across the front of the house on what may have been an acre of land there were piles of plastic. It was impossible to tell for sure what they were, but I thought I knew what they probably had been. They were blowup Christmas ornaments, but now without the wind and the lights they were just a small pile of leftovers from the night before.

I guess if I had been there eight or 10 hours earlier, I would have been fascinated with what I saw. But in the morning light, it simply looked like trash in someone’s yard that needed to be cleaned up. The problem was that it takes wind and light to bring meaning and understanding to whatever these Christmas characters were. No doubt you have seen or maybe even have some of these Christmas blowup ornaments. They make all kinds of them. There are reindeers, trees, Santa figures, and I have even seen some manger scenes that were blowup plastic figurines. Without wind and light all of them are basically empty piles of plastic. They are neither attractive or in any way meaningful when they are deflated. Although I will admit I let up on the gas and looked out across the yard, I was unable to tell what anything was. I simply drove on by and reflected on how empty their Christmas setting was.

Later as I reflected on the piles of plastic, I wondered how many people find that to be a parable of their Christmas. I thought about how many churches have lost the true wonder of Christmas, and they are left in part with only empty shells of what could be. For the images in that front yard to come to life, they required two significant things — wind and light. These same two things — wind and light — also apply to our spiritual lives. They are essential for the coming of Jesus to have meaning.

This wind that is needed is not the kind that just blows through some hose into a plastic creature and makes it standup. It is wind representing the very presence of God to move, shape and change us. It is the same wind that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about when He said, “The wind blows and you do not understand it, but you know that it is there.” It was the wind, like the sound that came on Pentecost Day which was rushing and powerful. It alerted everyone that God was up to something big. Maybe the greatest thing that could ever happen at this Christmas Season is not a gift to be bought or given and not for us to gather and just sing songs and tell a story that at times may seem stale to us. Oh, no! Not when that wind comes.

The wind of God fills our lives, reshapes our existence and pumps our hearts full to overflowing with God’s love. When that wind blows among us, the most ancient of Christmas Carols become a living, breathing point of communication with our hearts once again. When that wind comes, hearing a story that is over 2000 years old suddenly stands up and marches almost with the sound of thunder in our hearts to walk across our lives again and remind us of the great gift of God’s love pulsating in our presence again. Empty, meaningless — hardly, for when the wind blows with God’s presence moving among us, the story of God’s invasion in Bethlehem comes to life.

Light is also needed. When you and I begin to look at the Christmas story it is announced by light. It is in every way and in every day shimmering light. The prophet Isaiah said that a light would come. A star that had never been seen before began to shine and then as shepherds, Wise Men, and many of us gather at the feet of Jesus we begin to see and experience what John described in his wonderful Gospel. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God with the spotlight of His love was shining on Jesus, His Son. Without that light your Christmas and my Christmas would be only empty decorations, piles of paper, and meaningless days off from work and school. But with that light turned on, the world comes alive with God’s presence and His saving love.

Christmas is not just some piles of plastic in a front yard. At its deepest meaning, it is the incredible life of God living in us through Jesus Christ by which the world is able to see that He is the Light of the world. We are the light bearers in this world. Merry Christmas to you and may the wind of God blow upon your heart and the brilliance of God’s light shine upon your path.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer