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A Tangled Ball of Lights

I find myself fighting with a tangled ball of lights year after year as we decorate the Christmas tree. Since we have had children, this has gotten extraordinarily difficult.

While Babies Sleep 

When our children were infants, it was easy to simply distract them with a brightly colored toy or to let them sleep in a bassinet while we dragged heavy boxes of ornaments, fake tree branches, and way too much garland up the steps. As I had my annual fight with the ball of lights, we would decorate the tree on our own, in a hurry as the children slept, praising God (silently!) when it was all done—ready for a nap ourselves as our infants cracked their eyes open and fixed them upon a gloriously bright Christmas tree.

Pan to current day, and Christmas decorating is not all that simple. Same ball of lights—yet once-sleepy infants are replaced with energetic “big kids,” ready to do their part in decorating, their hands stretching as far up as they possibly can to get the ornaments placed. And year by year, we watch the kids grow at the same rate as the decorations of the tree, the decorations placed according to their size. The tree becomes their annual growth chart—with every passing year the “garland mark” getting higher and higher. As parents, we could fuss over broken ornaments and misplaced garland. Instead, we do as Mary does.

Mimic Mary

Luke 2:19 says,

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Christmas is a time for loving and giving. Children’s eyes light up at the sight of something under the tree, yet as parents, we light up as they decorate the tree.

We treasure up all these things, pondering them in our hearts.

With so many things happening surrounding the birth of Christ, it could have been easy for Mary to get distracted as a parent. A census, finding a place to have her child, visitors, and all the other hustle and bustle that comes with being a new parent—distractions all around. Much like pulling out boxes, finding the perfect gift, and entertaining family. But Scripture informs us of what Mary chooses to do through all of this: she treasures these things and ponders these things.

The baby whose head rested on her bicep would one day demonstrate the greatest strength by giving His life for many. The infant hand that wrapped around her finger would find a nail through it as it clenched in pain. The two tiny feet that grazed her wrists would go limp as He breathed His last. All to save us.

An overwhelming feeling to hold the Savior, small as He was, who would do the biggest thing of all—redeem the world.

We should ponder those things next time we drag out the decorations.

Wherever you are celebrating—however you are marking this 2020 Christmas season—make sure to treasure and ponder. Treasure the gift of family, friends, and relationships. Ponder the sacrifice of the Savior so that you would grow.

Thank You, God  

Every year, I have my fight with the ball of lights. The kids grow—taller and taller. Bigger and bigger. Reaching higher and higher. But not yet tall enough to put the star up top. In our family, this is a “Daddy job,” bestowed upon me as I unbundle the ball of lights and scatter them around the decorated tree. And Daddy (that’s me!) plugs it all into the power source. And wham—illumination.

Praise God for the “Daddy jobs.” Thank God that He is still willing to light up the world—no matter how big we get. We are a tangled ball of lights, but He unravels us just right. All spread out around the world by our Father and illuminated by His sacrifice.

Merry Christmas.

Scripture: ESV®.


Spend time as a family learning about Christ’s birth by joining in a fun Arch Book read-along with Ken Ohlemeyer. Click the button below to watch the video. 

Listen along to The Happiest Search 

Picture of Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling
Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling is an LCMS pastor and Lutheran university educator. Dr. Bolling holds a BA in theatre from Concordia University Chicago, an MDiv from Concordia Seminary, and a doctor of education (EdD) degree from Concordia University Wisconsin in leadership, innovation, and continuous improvement. His dissertation was focused on human resource development in under-resourced urban ministry structures of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (How LCMS Pastors Are Developed through Mentorship). Dr. Bolling currently serves in a dual call as pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and as assistant professor of leadership and theology in the online modality and coordinator of multicultural engagement at Concordia University Texas. His passion for urban ministry, education, leadership, nonprofit management, mentorship, diversity/equity/inclusion, and distance learning are all married in this dual call as he serves the saints of Bethlehem and the students of Concordia University Texas simultaneously. Dr. Bolling has also spoken at numerous conferences, on podcasts, and at churches, schools, and events within our church body, reflecting the love of Christ and prodding deeper conversations about deaf, urban, and cross-cultural inclusive ministry. He has taught in half the schools of the Concordia University System, thoroughly realizing the depth of knowledge our Concordia schools have to offer to the world they engage. Dr. Bolling has been married to his beautiful and talented wife, Lorenda, for six years. Lorenda serves as a preschool teacher at Word of Life Lutheran School. Together, they have a four-year-old son named Lincoln and a two-year-old daughter named Monroe. Both children were born in different years but on the exact date—October 5! They currently reside on the south side of St. Louis, Missouri.

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