Much to my husband’s chagrin, there is a lot of glitter at Christmastime. To say that he isn’t a fan of glitter is an understatement, it just might be one of the few things he actually uses the word hate regarding. The darn stuff gets all over and it never goes away. From clothing, to decorations, ornaments, and Christmas cards… glitter is everywhere. It seems Christmas is a season meant to sparkle.
It isn’t just glitter either, there are lights EVERYWHERE… on houses, on our lawns, in trees, throughout our homes, on vehicles, even on our Christmas sweaters or Rudolf noses… from lights you plug in to those that are battery operated… lights of Christmas brighten our view.
Christmas is meant to shine! As well it should, if we really think about it.
After all, we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel: God with us. John 1 says that in Jesus, “was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” What’s more Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Why wouldn’t Christmas be full of light as we celebrate Christ, the light of the world? It is a beautiful thing that we fill our homes, lawns, buildings, streets and towns with so much light at Christmas. What a fitting way to celebrate the coming of Christ!
But… all that glitters is not gold and all that is gold does not glitter. Christmas decorations and holiday seasons are no exceptions.
Now, you may have been familiar with the phrase:
All that glitters is not gold
And we get that, the attractive external view of something (or someone) is not always a good indication of its true nature.
But what about the phrase:
All that is gold does not glitter
That one might catch you up for a second. Sounds about the same… and yet, it’s almost reversed. Some things are more important than they look, more valuable than they appear.
Hidden in this Christmas season, I see the truth of both of these phrases at work. It was there from the first Christmas in the gospels’ accounts of the coming Savior. From Herod’s petition to the magi, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” He betrayed his kingly stature with his lie. The title of King with adorned robes, wealth and power may glitter with earthly glory but his heart was filled with darkness. There we see it: all that glitters is not gold.
Jesus’ birth far from sparkled as the Messiah was born not to a king, not in palace, not surrounded by safety, security or status. No, Jesus was born to a nothing special Mary from a tiny town of Bethlehem, in an animal barn far from home, not even a room available to him. Yet, in this certainly unexpected arrival of the Messiah without fanfare or glory comes to us the light of all mankind. And still today we celebrate this unassuming birth with nativity scenes on cards, in window displays, on our lawns and in plays. Because we see the truth of it: all that is gold does not glitter.
Unfortunately, the same is true today. As Christmas comes, we know all too well truth found in the statement, “All that glitters is not gold.” We can put lights on a house but that doesn’t make it a happy home. We can give gifts wrapped in sparkly paper and adorned with gorgeous bows but that doesn’t mean they are what we want, need or are given with pure intentions. We send Christmas cards with letters filled with our accomplishments but feel more worthless than ever. We can put on our Christmas best, bring a dish to pass, gather with friends/family but all the while feeling completely alone.
And yet, all that is gold does not glitter… that for sure is true too. In the midst of times filled with devastation… right there, in the darkest of moments, hope is found as communities rally to help people who’ve lost everything. In a hospital room, far from home, families facing anguishing diagnoses find community and the bonds of love they never had even in the best of times. Even in homes where money doesn’t allow all the glitz and glamour of fancy displays and mountains of gifts true understanding of the value of giving and the blessing of receiving is found.
Christmas is meant to shine! How will it shine in your life this year? Is God showing you that you’re so busy trying to outshine when you need to let Christ shine in you? Is God revealing moments of true worth and wonder in the most insignificant, lowly, humbling of circumstances?