In the church we served in Kentucky, I have a vivid Christmas memory. It was in a home after Christmas had ended. I was visiting the family who lived there… precious to us. But when I arrived at their simple, cigarette smoke-filled home, I noticed that their decorations were still up. This was days after the “grace period” we give to people to leave their decorations u. Proper etiquette requires we take down our trees and lights at least by the first of the New Year and you certainly don’t turn the lights on to advertise! After that, it’s just “tacky.” Or lazy. It’s all written down somewhere in the Bible, isn’t it?
So feeling some responsibility as the community pastor, I had to ask: “Why is your tree still up… and lit?” I thought maybe they had discovered some new holiday I was not aware of or maybe they had an injury that wouldn’t allow them to take them down, or more than likely I was just being tacky myself for asking.
They told me. And I learned something about Christmas. They told me that their son was being released from prison in a few days, and he had only asked for one thing for Christmas…”Mom, can you leave the decorations up so I can see them?”
These good people taught me something about the grace of Christmas that I had forgotten. I had forgotten that God did not just come for the good sheep. He came for the lonely. The forgotten. The marginalized. The criminal. The out-of-place. The broke. The refugee and the homeless. The one that polite society doesn’t have time for.
Because during His lifetime on earth, Jesus was each of these in some turn. He became like us in every way, yet without sin. His path on earth was “the road less traveled.” And He came so none of us would have to miss the real gifts that Christmas brings… the gift of grace and forgiveness and a brand new beginning.
I think that’s what her son needed to know. That he could have a new beginning. That he could be ok… forgiven. Washed clean. Accepted. That Jesus is leaving the lights on for him.
Something about Christmas promises that…
…and in Jesus, the promise is delivered.
The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10
Father of Lost Sheep, I thank You that You don’t give up on us, no matter how hopeless we may be. I, too, am guilty and deserve prison and punishment… but You bore my guilt and shame for me. We walk through Christmas and sometimes stumble over the greatest gift of all… the gift of a Shepherd who came for us in our lostness and didn’t quit looking. And Lord, please help us see others with Your eyes this Christmas. In the Lamb of God we pray, Amen.