Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Posted on December 19, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Down Home in Mississippi

We are returning to a little common sense in decorating for Christmas now that we are down home in Mississippi. We were overwhelmed by Texas traditions during our early years of marriage. Everyone tried to outdo their neighbors in excessive decorations. “Gaudy” is not an inappropriate word for outlining one’s house, covering every bush and lining every tree limb with colorful lights while filling the lawn with blinking raindeer, snow men and angels on the roof.

When we returned to Richmond, Virginia in recent years we found the colonial tradition prevailed of only white lights and a single candle in each window. Wreaths had to be natural with fruit and berries, not the modernistic colorful, puffed ribbons of green and orange that some have begun using. One of our colleagues was even issued a citation by the neighborhood association for putting multi-colored lights around their front door.

We have stayed with the white lights and single candle in each window, but have delighted in adding lighted swag with red ribbons to our Old Southern front porch. With nine front windows our wreaths are artificial and we have added permanent hooks to make hanging them easier each year.

We were surprised to find that much of our decorating for Christmas diminished once the children were gone. Actually, we had become much more austere in that regard through 23 years overseas. We didn’t want our house looking like the Hindu temples at Divali (festival of lights) in India, but we included in our freight an artificial tree among our belongings. It wasn’t very large and was easy to cover with a couple of strands of colored lights. Most of the decorations were an eclectic mix of store-bought baubles and those the children had made over the years.

Bobbye always commented that one year she wanted a tree covered with only while lights and white angels. During Russell’s senior year in high school, he got up at 2:10 am Christmas morning, undecorated the tree, put on strands of white lights and covered the tree with little white angels he had bought from our Baptist handicraft ministry in Thailand. One of our most cherished memories is the shock in discovering the transformed tree when Bobbye got up to put some last-minute presents under the tree Christmas morning.

Retaining the tradition of the tree was our most prevalent witnessing opportunity during the holidays as neighborhood children would gaze in awe through the window and friends would want to know what it meant. Even our most fanatic Muslim acquaintances would bring a plate of goodies to us at Christmas to express their respect of this sacred holiday. It was our greatest opportunity to tell about the Light of the World the lights represented and the everlasting life He provided as symbolized by the evergreen.

However, the center of our witness was the prominently displayed nativity. Identifying the characters was a context for telling the Christmas story. Never mind the incongruence with Scripture of the wisemen and shepherds, lined up on each side of the manger arriving simultaneously the night of Jesus’ birth!

Travel around the world in recent years has enabled us to accumulate an abundance of nativities; in fact, we are challenged to find enough flat surfaces around the house to display them all. It is frustrating to try to remember where those are from we forgot to label, but the multi-ethnic figures and designs remind us that the gospel is “good news of great joy to all peoples” as we celebrate Christmas.

One Comment on “Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”

  1. Bettiann Lloyd

    Jerry and Bobbye – what a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. I especially love your manger scene – reminds me of a gorgeous “carved bamboo” manger set I brought back from Hong Kong and each year I put it on display it floods my mind with memories of the beautiful people with whom I served and worked. Thanks for sharing the photos – your home is lovely and so tastefully done. May you both enjoy special Christmas moments together and may 2012 brings blessings you could never have dreamed possible.
    Miss and love you both, BA

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