By Katie Kieffer
Red fire, green scales, and sharp white teeth for Christmas?
On Sunday afternoon, I went on a walk. Home after home is decked with wreaths, garlands, lights, a nativity scene, and then… a dragon! A father was energetically inflating a nine-foot red, white and green dragon. “Our theme is red, white and green!” he exclaimed to his wife and child.
Neither Smaug the Dragon nor Frosty the Snowman joined the donkey and ox in bowing before the Christ child. Snowmen and dragons are essentially irrelevant when it comes to helping a child celebrate Christmas meaningfully. Yet snowmen—and suddenly also dragons donning Santa hats—are ubiquitous this time of year.
It’s worth pondering why we intentionally display playful yet inapt figures during the Christmas season? It’s fun. It’s also potentially distracting. Because the first Christmas was an historical event, not a fairy tale. The tiny baby we celebrate wasn’t a prince who slayed dragons in a tale by the Brothers Grimm, but the real-life Creator of the universe.
God-made-man was born into the world on Christmas. Consider that miracle. Omnipotence and omniscience chose to become one of us; we who are so frail that a car accident could render us an invalid in seconds. Ponder Christ’s fathomless humility in drawing His first breath of cold air in a cave warmed only by farm animals; consider His willingness to become a vulnerable infant submitting to creatures He created.
Ponder how God, in the form of a naked babe grew into a man who, 30 years later, still obeyed a human woman—his mother, Mary. How many modern men defer to their mother (if single) or wife (if married) in making major decisions? Yet Christ—the most powerful man to ever live—began his ministry at his mother’s request, by miraculously changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana. (Honestly, “Me Too Movement” activists should have worn WWJD bracelets instead of pink cat-ear hats.)
Author G. K. Chesterton says something very profound about Christmas in his book, “Everlasting Man.” He maintains Christ’s birth in a cave “was resented, because, in its own still and almost secret way, it had declared war. It had risen out of the ground to wreck the heaven and earth of heathenism. It did not try to destroy all that creation of gold and marble; but it contemplated a world without it.”
Dragons and snowmen bring us closer to heathenism, helping us forget the cave and pretend we are merely celebrating winter. So, how can our lights, lawn art and decor remind us that, without Christ’s birth, creation would still be darkened by the gloom of man’s disobedience and hopeless machinations?
WinterFest! Or Christmas?
Christmas is creeping into Veteran’s Day. Everyone in my town, for example, received an invitation from a popular shopping complex to attend “WinterFest” for a day with “Santa, snow, train rides, balloons, refreshments, and more” on November 9 (despite that it’s Autumn until December 21.).
Children are experiencing “Christmas” as a sappy conglomeration of commercial promotions between early November and late December when they receive presents and entertainment while stuffing their tummies with sugar cookies.
Red, green and white fireworks filled the sky during Winterfest and I felt like a reverse Grinch watching them from my window. Because the fireworks made me somber: Do children watching these fireworks know what red, green and white symbolize during this time of year?
Red recalls the blood Christ spent during His passion—hence berries, candy canes and holly are popular Christmas décor. Green symbolizes life, especially with evergreens, and early Christians used wreaths (a circle has no beginning or ending) to symbolize Christ’s birth and everlasting life. White symbolizes Christ’s purity as well as that of his Virgin mother.
White lights and candles also call to mind the life-giving illumination Jesus brought to the world. From the Gospel of John: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness grasped it not. … It was the true Light that enlightens every man who comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world knew Him not.”
Children are so accustomed to seeing snowmen, dinosaurs, Pokémon characters in Santa hats—and now dragons—at Christmastime that we must ask whether they know the true Light and true cast of characters: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, wise men, barn animals, and a wondrous star.
How ironic that our children know that Steve Jobs invented iPads, but they don’t know who created Steve Jobs or the rare earth elements necessary to make the iPad they may unwrap on Christmas. Nor do they know that His way is one of charity, truth and humility—not selfishness, materialism and popularity.
It’s fine to put an inflatable dragon in your yard. Yet be sure, if you’re a Christian, to also have a nativity scene nearby. Be awed by God’s Incarnation. Use lights to spotlight Him, and to remind yourself to emulate His amazing love. Especially if you have children. Take time to help them recognize that all of creation—including constructions of our imagination, like dragons—bows down to the babe.
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and blessed New Year!