Why Jesus Doesn't Belong in Christmas Décor
In John 14:9, Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." To gaze at Jesus is to gaze at the Trinitarian God in all His fullness—something no painting of an infant, no matter how beautiful—can possibly attempt.
This matters because, as the second commandment goes on to explain, images of God, even construction paper art projects and nativity play sets, will lead us to worship. "A picture of Christ," writes Murray, "if it serves any useful purpose, must evoke some thought or feeling respecting him and, in view of what he is, this thought or feeling will be worshipful. We cannot avoid making the picture a medium of worship."
Our images, in their frailty, diminish God. Since we are inevitably drawn to worship our God through looking at them, images of Christ keep us from worshipping "in spirit and truth" as Jesus himself commands (John 4:24).
This Christmas, my house is decorated as usual. I have wreaths and lights and stockings and gifts, but no babe in a manger. Because what I want is not less Jesus in my life, but more. By removing the brown-eyed man in my children's Bible storybooks and by declining to purchase the "Virgin and Child" stamps at the post office, I am not taking Christ out of my life. Instead, I am making room for more of him.
I want to experience all of his fullness, unrestricted by my own feeble imagination or someone else's inevitably limited artistic sensibilities. I want to receive the Lord's benediction that comes to those who "have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). I want to freely commune with my incarnate Lord through the symbols he has given: the intensely physical bread and wine of his supper. And I want to worship him, not through frail human creativity, but by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, who alone can sculpt the true Christ in my heart.
Beyond that, I do want to lay physical eyes on my Savior's face. But my holy curiosity will be satisfied by nothing less than the truth. I am desperate to shed this dark glass through which I squint and to instead see fully and know fully. I want to see my Jesus. And I want to worship him as he is.
I can rarely sing the final verse of the old Christmas carol "Once in Royal David's City" without tears, overwhelmed by my longing to look upon my Lord:
Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by,
we shall see him, but in heaven, set at God's right hand on high.
In this sure and certain hope, I wait for his appearing. Come, Lord Jesus.
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