She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

(Luke 2:7, NIV) 


Our first Christmas away as a married couple in snowy Illinois, Carol and I economized by making tree ornaments out of gift wrap or construction paper. And we hung them on the gnarled, imperfect little tree that we bought and cut down at a nearby monastery. Our little country church provided what friend-families and loving care we needed. We were safe and secure, warm and comfortable, with a cozy Christmas dinner on our card table.

Just like Joseph and Mary. Except they were having a baby. And except they had to make do with a feed bin for furniture. And except that “no guest room” meant they were humanly unexpected and unimportant, having to carry out the childbirth procedures as the time was being accomplished. No midwife is mentioned in the Bible; if they didn’t have one, I know some angel was lending Joseph a hand!

Christmas is wrapped in our traditions, and they have great importance for teaching our children about Jesus coming into the world. Our family added traditions a little each year: a special serving plate, a crèche and Scripture reading, lights and fir strands all over the house. We work at “cluttering” our homes with memory-joggers that help our families and friends rediscover the joy of the Incarnation.

Most of us will have paper and ribbon to pick up from around the Christmas tree. And later we will put away our precious holiday memorials for another year. Time clears away all clutter.

But clearing the clutter in our memories must leave behind what is really the point: Jesus is the God-Man who, even as a baby, came to die. His death reconciles us to God; all we need to do is believe on Jesus as our Reconciler (Romans 5:8–11; 2 Corinthians 5:20). He is the Christmas “Clutter” that we want to leave on display for the upcoming new year!