My mother is notorious for keeping every single ornament she has ever had the privi-lege of owning. She’s not a collector, really, and calling her an ornament hoarder wouldbe crass; if anything, she is an ornament Advocate. She advocates on behalf of the bro-ken angel, the faceless snowman, the decaying circa-1982 macaroni snowake. Throughthe years it has become a running joke that the boxes of ornaments at my parents’ houseget more plentiful even as the viable ornament options get smaller and smaller. When Iwas a child, this collection of mist Christmas tree ornaments hovered between 5 and10 specimens; we just laughed at them scornfully and hung them around back. Un-less, of course, it was OUR Sunday school creation in which case it had an extenuatingcircumstance that demanded it be front and center, right below the Texas Armadillo.(I have no idea why the Texas Armadillo was, and is, a family ornament. It should be“ornamentation” for the grill of a beat-up station wagon, not Christmas décor.) But asthe years have rolled by, the ornaments left in their wake have grown as numerous asthe grains of sand on the seashore. We’re talking Old Testament proportions.There’s the felt rocking horse head with the candy cane body. His one good googly eyefell o years ago and my name is scrawled in barely-there black Sharpie. There’s a multicolored crocheted mailbox (obscure, right?) that has no real hook or ribbon fromwhich to hang so you just have to perch it on a branch and hope it stays put. There’sthe most hideous felt manger scene that hangs from a sparkly pipe cleaner; who knewthe oor of the Christ Child’s stable was plush neon green? There are a few ornamentsmade of pecan shells. There is candy older than me mummied in antique foil andcaught up in petried glue and hanging from frayed ribbon.The shoeboxes these ornaments call home look like cons in miniature, small sepul-chers of Christmases past. Pulling them out and revisiting their contents year afteryear feels like grave robbery, but it mostly feels like visiting a very old and senile friend— someone who can be funny and dear but who you might be embarrassed to sit with ata bustling Starbucks. But the worst ornament display by far was the Christmas my dadran out of light strands for the tree; defeated and tired, he covered it top-to-bottom in a giant net of shrubbery lights. This made the noble r look like a catch of sh, the bravelittle ornaments shining like trout bellies behind the netting.Gordon and I got married in December. When we got home from our honeymoon justdays before Christmas, we entered our new apartment and discovered that my parentshad set up a little tree in a little corner and covered it with the little jingle bells thatchimed for our getaway car. I thought, “Hey, it’s the beginning of my very own littleornament landll.” But then I couldn’t wait to get to Container Store and start hoarding— er, advocating — on my own terms, with my own stu.Christmas ornaments are not just pieces of plastic or painted glass. They’re littlepreserved moments, little lasting impressions of a former time, little souvenirs fromtrips taken over the course of a long life, little promises we love to hear again. If some-one were to snatch your ornaments and told you to start from scratch, how could youdo anything but just stare at your empty tree? And the tree wouldn’t be of any help,because all this time
have been the one dening
. You and the tree would just stareat each other, and both of you would think, “Well, I guess one of us better start makingfriends, or falling in love, or having babies.” Because more than moments, impressions,souvenirs, or promises, ornaments really represent
, and I think this is why it’s sohard for my mother to get rid of a single one.Let me tell you a little secret: the people in my mother’s life are not perfect and theynever have been. I happen to know that the fourth-grader who made the felt horse in1991 was whiney and melodramatic. I don’t know who crocheted the mailbox, but theyobviously had bleak romantic sensibilities and little Christmas spirit. And don’t evenget me started on the Texas Armadillo.Every Christmas my siblings and I are slightly embarrassed of my parents’ tree, butI know if my mother ever decided to chunk the whole lot of ornaments and hire a decorator, we would all feel betrayed; it would be as though our infant selves and ourchildhood selves and our adolescent selves had been unplugged like a net of lights. It’shumbling that old conglomerations of pasta and sequins are our life-line to a real senseof memory, but it’s true. We may be broken, chintzy, faded, dusty, kitschy and campy,but my mother loved us anyway, still does, and won’t ever let us forget it as long as thereis Christmas.I’m grateful the Christ Child feels the same way. Aren’t you?
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IBC is on a journey committed to growing in Christ,connecting in community and joining the mission.This commitment comes from Jesus’ words in the Great Commandment(Matthew 22:36-39) and Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
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is a publication of Irving Bible Church in Irving, Texas.
Art Direction, Design & Goodness
Josh Wiese, Dennis Cheatham, Lindsey Sobolik
The Final Say
David Farris (
Cover; Back Cover; Ornaments
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Angel Tree, Recovery
, hand modelon back cover)*
Kim Jones*Jason Fox*
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At the heart of the journey is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the story of the Son of God coming into our dark world to bring light, life, hope and transformation.The journey begins when we trust Christ, but it doesn’t end there. God’s desirefor each of us is for our hearts and lives to become more like the one who hassaved us. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
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The gospel story draws us into a community of people whose lives have beentransformed by Jesus. This journey is not one that we undertake alone. We aredesigned to do life together as a community of Christ-followers. It is essentialthat we walk with one another on the journey. (John 13:34-35)
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The gospel tells us that one day God will take all that is broken in this world andmake it whole. Those of us who are on the journey together are called to bepeople who do what we can to make glimpses of that day show up in our day.We do this by telling the gospel story and demonstrating gospel-shaped love toa needy world. (Matthew 28:18-20)