It may be said of virtually any bizarre aspect of our increasingly confusing approach to Christmas, “There’s a blow-up for that.” Those inflated outdoor decorations have become another ubiquitous addition to the brightly lit American landscape heralding the arrival of the Christmas season. I’m not sure exactly when they made their debut, and I’m not curious enough to Google it for you, but this much is clear … At some point in the not too distant past, there must have been some sort of decorating crisis that gave birth to them. In spite of the willingness of the Chinese to crank out enough lights, tinsel, artificial evergreen trees, wreaths, and pre-lit garland to challenge the entire American power grid, it wasn’t quite enough. After all, the collective ‘observers of Christmas’ in this country are resolute in their determination to visualize, dramatize, vocalize, theorize, and fantasize about every piece of Christmas minutia, new or used, real or imagined. Thus, any device holding the slightest chance of enhancing some aspect of the mystifying kaleidoscope of contradictory and confusing Christmas messages transmitted every year is fair game. So, queue the Christmas blow-up parade.
Blow-ups Aren’t New ~
There are blow-ups depicting manger scenes, frowning grinches, pointy-eared elves, Christmas trees, wise men, snowmen, camels, reindeer, polar bears, and, of course, Santa Claus, who is prone to invade any blow-up scenario, Biblical or otherwise. Many are much larger than life and rise as high as the housetops. Some folks love them, and others think they are evidence of another depressing step away from cherished decorating tradition. Either way, their popularity and proliferation shouldn’t surprise us, because human beings have always been prone to find ways to artificially inflate things. We love to make things look bigger and more impressive than they really are, and to create an image of substance that is totally lacking. We were doing ‘blow-ups’ long before they became another colorful addition to the list of ways for the marketing predators of Madison Avenue to separate Christmas celebrants from their money.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m on some kind of campaign against blow-ups in particular, or Christmas decorations in general, but in our ongoing quest to insert a little ‘right side up thinking’ in this ‘upside down world,’ blow-ups have a message worth hearing. The fact that God sent His Son into the world had one foundational and overriding motivation. John said it with profound simplicity, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16a NKJV) And speaking of love, there’s something noteworthy in Paul’s elaboration of what that concept looks like. He said that love does not “parade itself”, and that it “is not puffed up” (I Cor. 13:4). The word translated ‘puffed up’ means literally to inflate something. There are obvious and profound contrasts between artificially inflated representations of things and those that are real.
Some Things Can’t Be Inflated ~
There is nothing that has more potential to astound a rational mind than the idea that the omnipotent God of our very creation would love rebellious and depraved creatures like us enough to compact Himself into a body like ours. He became one of us in every way except for the sin that afflicts all the rest of us. The child in Mary’s womb is the essence of divine condescension, and the profound opposite of humanity’s bent toward artificial inflation. She brought forth the expanse of heaven in a tiny human body, the only hope for a fallen race, invested in a helpless little form small enough to use a feed trough for a bed. She delivered the statement from God that cannot be overstated. She gave birth to the reality that cannot be exaggerated beyond the substance that He brought with Him.
So, I have a suggestion. Instead of laboring to inflate messages that offer no real hope, and hold no possibility of real peace, and that only obfuscate the message that Jesus came to give, maybe we could respond more like Mary did when Elizabeth delivered that beautiful blessing about the unborn Savior in her womb. She said,
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…” Luke 1:46 KJV
Her desire was not to make the Lord appear to be larger and more impressive than He really was, but to declare the magnitude of who He really was, and what He would have the power to do.
Nothing on the Inside ~
Blow-ups aren’t nearly as impressive when you unplug them, because they have nothing on the inside to hold them up. But they aren’t the only empty things on display this time of year. There are lots of empty words, lots of empty philosophies, lots of empty fantasies, and lots of empty promises that get artificially inflated this time of year. Sadly, there will be lots of hopes, dreams, desires, and expectations built on them that will eventually collapse because there is no substance to support them.
Decorations with Substance ~
Consider this, my friends … What a difference it could make if we decorated our homes with the kind of joy John wrote about that is so expansive that it cannot be contained, and what if we adorned it with expressions of the kind of peace that is beyond our capacity to describe? And … what if we lit it up with the kind of love that nothing in this world can ever deflate?
© 2016 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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