Recently I was asked to share a favorite tradition of mine at Christmas at a campus tree-lighting ceremony and I couldn’t get one particular snapshot of my head. It’s an ornament. It’s not much to look at, as it’s a Styrofoam sphere with cutouts of some of the Strawberry Shortcake gang on it, covered in shiny snow-like flakes, complete with a paper clip hook. But it’s mine, and it represents one of the first memories that I have of Christmas. It was purchased in 1981—it says so on the back of the ornament! Before I saw the date, I didn’t remember when it was purchased, but I definitely remember where it was purchased. It was purchased in the high school gym in my hometown where each year while I was growing up, we attended the craft fair the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I remember my mom bribing my twin sister and me with selecting our very own hand-crafted ornament if we would behave during the sometimes monotonous hour or two of looking at carved Santas, homemade jam, and handcrafted clocks. That year (apparently 1981), I found my ornament about halfway through the zig-zag of booths, displayed on a table top Christmas tree and nestled with other cartoon plastered characters on various forms of ornaments. I was five, so Blueberry Muffin, and her friends Apple Dumplin’ and Strawberry Shortcake were just my speed! I distinctly remember picking out the ornament and carrying it around so carefully, thinking that my favorite cartoon friends were the absolute best thing in that whole craft fair! Each year as I grew up, I remember placing the ornament on the tree. I silently enjoyed the walk down memory lane and probably smiled at myself for thinking that this ornament was so exquisite as a child.
One year when I was in college and I was home to decorate the Christmas tree, I discovered several broken ornaments in the trash can, put there by my mother. Lo and behold, there was the Strawberry Shortcake Gang, tossed away beside reindeer with broken antlers and a smashed glass bulb. Frantically, I called my mother to account and asked her why it was in the trashcan. She replied that it was missing its hook and that it wasn’t anything nice enough to continue to be displayed on our burgeoning tree (she probably didn’t say burgeoning, but that’s what she meant, I’m sure!). I set her straight and reminded her that while it may only look like the bauble of a kid, it represented so much more to me! It was one of the first decisions that I remembered making, and it was mine (not shared with my sister)! It had been specially handled all those year by me (apparently without notice by anyone in my family)! And it was my favorite ornament on the whole tree!
The ornament reminds me that with Christmas, there is more than meets the eye. What appeared to be a young, unwed mom, was a miracle. What seemed to only be a routine census was fulfillment of prophecy. What looked like only a baby, was God incarnate. There was much more to this seemingly mundane occurrence than what even his parents could have imagined. They certainly couldn’t have conceived that this child would be changing the fate of human history. But that’s what the birth of Jesus was. Jesus’ birth was the single most important thing that had happened up to that time. I would suggest that his death and resurrection is the only thing that tops it. So how could his humble parents know that they were getting ready to raise the Savior of the World?
My silly little ornament isn’t sacred. It isn’t magical. It isn’t even really that artistic. But it is a seasonal reminder to me that with Christmas, there is more than meets the eye.