My wife’s Christmas tradition was very different from mine. In my family, we put up the Christmas tree at the beginning of December. It was an artificial tree, about 1.7 metres high, decorated with ornaments and tinsel, a star or angel figure on the top, and wrapped with small electric lights.
My wife’s tradition was German. The tree was decorated on the evening of Christmas Eve. This was a real tree, not artificial. It was at about 2 metres high. Ornaments were carefully placed on branches. But there was no tinsel. Instead, thin strips of aluminum – "lametta" – were hung along each branch and twig. Only after the lametta was hung were the lights attached. These were not electric lights. These were candles – real, scented candles – in small candle holders which clipped to the branches. And when they were all attached, the room lights were dimmed, the candles were lit, and we sang “Silent Night”.
Looking back on those special evenings and remembering the lametta twinkling in the candlelight, I wonder what kind of light Mary and Joseph had when Jesus was born.
Luke 2:6-7 say, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and 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.”
Mary and Joseph were most likely in the open basement of a family home. On a second level overlooking the open basement, the family would eat and sleep. In the open basement, animals were kept: goats, sheep, lambs. A feeding trough filled with hay sat in the middle. The floor was dirt. And though a star indicated to the wise men where to find Jesus, light wouldn’t have penetrated the house. The only light was from small, clay, oil lamps.
When we celebrated Christmas with my wife’s family and finally lit the candles on the tree, we made sure there was a bucket of water nearby – just in case. I wonder if similar precautions were taken for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. I wonder about the safety of oil lamps near dry hay in a manger as the baby is born.
Then I remember that Jesus entered our world in complete vulnerability. He wasn’t born in his parents’ home in Nazareth. He wasn’t born under the watchful eyes of midwives. He wasn’t born in a clean environment. He wasn’t born in a safe place. This is what it meant for him to save you and me, to be one of us. It would be the same at his death. Naked and vulnerable he came into the world, and thirty years later, naked and vulnerable he was strung up on a cross, bleeding, to take my sin. Jesus let go of all privileges because he loves you and me.
Today, we have LED lights on our tree: safe, convenient, controllable, colourful. But I also light a candle – or, as we now have, a small, clay oil lamp to remember how Jesus came in complete vulnerability.
As you see Christmas lights this season, remember how, as John 1:9 says, the true light that gives light to everyone has come into the world. He came in complete vulnerability and he died in complete vulnerability - because you and I are worth it.
視頻大意翻譯(Brief video Chinese translation):
我太太過聖誕的傳統和我很不一樣。 在我家裡，我們在12月初就把聖誕樹立起來。 那是棵人造樹，高約1.7米。 我們用裝飾品和金銀絲來裝飾這棵樹，並在樹頂上放一個天使的星星，然後用小電燈把樹圍起來。
我太太的傳統是德國式的。 樹是在平安夜才立起來，有時是平安夜的傍晚才放好。 那是顆真樹，不是假的，約有兩米高。 樹枝上小心地掛上裝飾，沒有金銀絲帶，相反的，一種稱為Lametta鋁製的細絲帶會掛在樹枝上。 這要花上好幾個小時。 就在Lametta掛上後，才會放上燈飾，這並不是捲在電線捲上的燈飾，是真的蠟燭，有香味的蠟燭-放在小燭臺上，然後夾在樹枝上。 當全部都就位後，房間的燈光轉暗了，蠟燭被點燃了，接著我們就唱“平安夜”（以德文唱)。
路加福音 2：6-7 “ 他們在那裏的時候、馬利亞的產期到了。 就生了頭胎的兒子、用布包起來、放在馬槽裏、因為客店裏沒有地方。" 我們知道，馬利亞和約瑟很可能是在一個家庭開放式的地下室裡。 在俯瞰開放式地下室的第二層，一家人在那吃飯和睡覺。 在開放的地下室，飼養著動物：山羊、綿羊、羔羊。 會有一個飼料槽，裡面裝滿乾草。 地板是泥土。 儘管有一顆星為智者指明瞭尋找耶穌的地點，但月亮的大部分光亮不會穿透這房子。 唯一的光亮是來自小的、泥土做的油燈。
當我們與我妻子的家人一起慶祝聖誕節，最後點燃樹上的蠟燭時，我們總是確保附近有一桶水--以防萬一。 我想知道當初是否也為馬利亞、約瑟和耶穌採取了類似的安全預防措施; 我想知道，當嬰兒出生時，馬槽里乾草附近的油燈是否安全。
然後我記得，耶穌是在完全脆弱的情況下來到我們的世界。 他沒有出生在他父母拿撒勒的家中。 他不是在助產士的注視下出生的。 他不是在一個乾淨的環境中出生的。 他不是出生在一個安全的地方。 這就是他拯救你和我，成為我們中的一員的意義所在。 而在他死的時候也是如此。 他赤身裸體地來到這個世界，三十年後，他又赤身裸體地被釘死在十字架上，流血不止，為的是承擔我的罪。 耶穌放下了所有的特權，因為他愛你和我。
今天，我們的樹上有電子燈：安全、方便、可控、色彩豐富。 但我也會點蠟燭--或者像我們現在這樣，點一盞小的土油燈。 當你在這個季節看到聖誕燈飾時，請記住，正如約翰福音1：9所說，那給所有人帶來光明的真光是如何來到世界的。 耶穌是在完全脆弱的情況下到來，他也是在完全脆弱的情況下死去的。 因為你和我是值得的。 感謝神。 讓我們禱告吧。
Grace and peace this Advent