In God we trust — not in us

By Curtis Shelburne: Religion columnist

I am writing this column on January 4. Christmas is almost over. It’s not over on December 26, which is only the second of the “twelve days of Christmas,” which was a season before it was a song.

I’m whistling in the wind, I know, but I prefer to stand with the wisdom of the centuries on this one and not with Western marketing. My little $5 tree and the lights in my humble shed behind the house will stay up until Twelfth Night, the evening of January 5.

I’m not sure if I’m a Yuletide purist or just the son of my mother. Mom liked Christmas and hated taking down trees and ours often stood in the corner of the living room until February, by which time the tree was a genuine incendiary device we could have sold to terrorists for serious money had we not been patriotic Americans. My wife, flaunting tradition and my maternal heritage, slammed the lid on the whole thing and shoved the plastic tree in a box last Friday.

Because I’m a Christmas traditionalist, I always hate to see Christmas go. I’m also quirky, eccentric, and childishly immature, and hoping to be more so as I grow older outside and younger inside.

But I also have a deeper reason perhaps worthy of some reflection. You see, at Christmas, for just a little while, we almost get it. We almost understand that genuine beauty and light and joy and life itself do not proceed from us and are not about us. What happened at Bethlehem was something God did.

We could have sat through a million “success” seminars, strategically planned our hearts out, burned out our calculators creating fine business models, centered on ourselves in a thousand ways, and we’d never have thought of sending God’s Son from heaven and laying him in a manger. Even if we’d thought of it, we’d be as likely to start a nuclear reaction by rubbing two sticks together as to do for ourselves and our world what only God could do by his power. At Christmas, we see with a little clarity, which is more than usual and about the best we ever do, that everything we really need in this life is about God and from him, not us.

No wonder it’s a let-down when the lights come down and the lists of resolutions go up. We were centered on God’s great symphony; now we tend to focus again on our own little performance playing “Chop-sticks” on a plastic toy piano. We were enthralled by God’s power; now the temptation is to center on ours, take back the stage, pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, start rubbing two sticks together, and get busy trying to do for ourselves what only God can do.

No matter when you take the tree and the lights down, remember the lesson of Bethlehem. In God we trust. Not in us.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at: ckshel@aol.com