There’s a small box, inside a larger box, inside an even larger box. Every year, the largest box — and several others of similar size — are taken out of the attic cupboard and rifled through with care and diligence.
These boxes contain Christmas decorations. All of them; several hundred, at the very least, all different hues, shapes, sizes and designs. Feathers, glitter, sparkles and strips of ribbon litter the carpet after I’ve chosen all the decorations I need to fit that year’s colour scheme.
Last year, it was ‘Arabian Nights’, with fancy turquoise, deep scarlet, shimmering gold and deep purple. This year, our household is going German, with traditional reds, silvers, greens and golds.
But one box never gets opened. One carefully wrapped decoration never gets taken out, held aloft in the winter sun, and placed on the tree. It’s my great-grandmother’s Christmas decoration from the First World War era, and it is currently in dozens of pieces.
At first, it was whole. I managed to bring it back from Canada in one piece, but thoughtlessly, while unpacking it one Christmas, I put it next to me and knelt on it.
It shattered into four or five shards of faded green and red glaze. Aghast, I sought to protect it, so that I could glue it together. When I picked it up, further tiny pieces of festive shrapnel disintegrated at my touch.
Most people would have thrown it away, sentimentality forgotten in the light of pure practicality. It is beyond reasonable repair, unless I had the patience and laboratory-like conditions of the British Museum’s restoration team — which I do not!
But I keep it upstairs, shrouded reverentially in soft tissues inside a box, inside another box, and packed away each year with the rest of the decorations.
I never knew my great-grandmother, so my desire to keep this bauble almost ‘cryogenically’ preserved does not stem from a love of family. Nor am I so enamoured of the bauble itself that I could not bear to part with it. I only vaguely remember seeing it on my tree when I was a little child.
No. I have pity on it. That’s basically it. I, a 30-something-year-old woman, feel sorry for the bauble! I feel guilty for breaking it, when it lived more than 100 years, and I have anthropomorphised it into something that deserves my pity and care, and an effort at mending it.
Yes, I realise how ridiculous this sounds! I might as well weep for the cereal box that gets recycled, or mourn a tin of tuna once its contents have been devoured. But I guess Christmas brings out a little more sentimentality in all of us.
And it is as well to remember not just the ‘loving’ aspects of the season — the family, friends, giving and receiving — but the other elements too, such as pity for those less fortunate, compassion for the friendless, orphan and refugee.
Many years ago, someone else showed great pity on those who were not deserving. He did not quench a burning flax or break off a bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3). Instead, the Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed’ (Luke 4:18).
It was pity that stayed the Lord’s hand when on many occasions he burned with righteous anger against his people. Instead of using his immense power to snuff out our candle and scythe our drooping reeds, he came to heal, restore and forgive.
He demonstrated his great compassion for us when he left all the glories of heaven that day in history two thousand years ago, to come to earth and be born as one of us, and to live among us. He knew our weaknesses, fears and frailties, and — as the song goes — ‘came to heal, love and forgive’.
My little Christmas decoration may never be mended, but my broken relationship with God has been restored, whole and beautiful, thanks to Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
I haven’t been left in a box or hidden out of sight until a ‘convenient time’ for God to heal me, but already, through his love and grace, the Lord has adopted me into the most royal family this earth has ever known. He has given this broken vessel a place and purpose, a ministry and meaning.
Jesus can fix any person who is so broken that the world has long discarded them. He can heal the wounded soul. He can make the deaf hear, the lame walk and the blind see. He raises the dead to life and turns all our tears to joy.
Maybe, this year, you or someone you know feels broken and discarded? Maybe someone’s heart has been shattered into a hundred pieces or the world has fallen apart around you and you just cannot even begin to pick up the pieces?
Remember the one who walked among us, whose incarnation we celebrate this December. Look to him for healing, for regeneration, for restoration, for God himself says, ‘I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten’ (Joel 2:25).
A heavenly inheritance awaits those who put their trust in him, where we will find ourselves perfectly mended in mind, body and spirit.
Simoney Kyriakou is news editor of Evangelical Times and Financial Advisor