One of my favorite Christmas activities is driving around with my family to look at Christmas lights. I especially love the houses that go all out and decorate their entire house with flashing lights, blow-up characters and fancy displays all coordinated to Christmas music. I always wonder what the families that live in these decorative extravaganzas are like. Are they eccentric and over-the-top? Are they kind and nurturing? Obviously they love Christmas, but why? Are they drawn to the materialism, the symbolism or the reality of Christ’s birth? Do they want to announce to the world that Jesus is King and their way of doing so is by decorating every inch of their house as a public declaration of their love and faith?
Every home on my street has a sprinkling of outdoor Christmas decorations. Some have elegant displays of lights and greenery. Others have fun and playful decorations capturing the childlike essence of Christmas. Then, there’s this one house that always throws me off – it’s completely dark. No lights, no greenery, no blow-up figurine. On the outside, it would appear that the family that lives in that house is pretty “humbug”. The darkness of the house implies that the homeowners are anti-Christmas. But, the reality is actually very far from the truth.
The family that lives in that house are indeed really good friends of mine. They’re incredibly strong Christians and love the Christmas season. If you knew just this much about them, you could guess that they don’t want to decorate because they don’t want to buy into the materialism of the season. Or, maybe you would guess that they find it more important to spend their time and money serving the Lord directly rather than spending it on lights and decorations. Whatever the reason, the house’s outside appearance doesn’t necessarily match the personality of the people who live in it.
How often do we interact with people whose beliefs, outlook, personality, etc. doesn’t match their outside appearance. This is pretty common. Maybe someone looks all put together on the outside, but on the inside is a total mess. They feel horrible about themselves and compromise every part of them to feel validated. Or, there’s the other side of the spectrum with the person who looks all rough and tough on the outside, but on the inside they’re the most gentle and sincere individual you’ve ever met. Christians run into these stereotypes a lot. A lot of people think that Christians are supposed to look and act a certain way and only have certain interests. But, in reality, Christians represent a very diverse God and we’ll reflect His majestic vastness in a variety of ways.
When we find ourselves stereotyping others, or find ourselves being stereotyped for looking or being different, then we need to do two things:
1.) Ask God are we really being the person that He designed us to be?
2.) Ask God who He made the person who is different than us to be?
Are we really being the fullest person God designed us to be, or are we getting caught in our narrow human perspective? Are we becoming too stagnant on our own idea of who we are? Being open to someone’s difference doesn’t mean that we need to change and be more like that person. We can learn something from them and it’s dangerous to view ourselves as correct and their perspective as inaccurate. When we learn why someone acts a certain way, dresses a certain way or feels like they need to be a certain way, we can embrace our great God more graciously.
When we take a moment to look beyond the surface of someone and try to engage in their personal identity, then we’re opening up doors for God to reveal more of who He is. When we open ourselves up to seeing more of God than we’re allowing ourselves to see the vastness of His nature. We can learn something from every single one of God’s creations, no matter his or her outside appearance. If we disregard the other person and refuse to see them for who they are, then we’re refusing to see God’s fullest desire for His world.
Since God cares more about the heart rather than outside appearance, we should as well (1 Samuel 16:17). What a delight it would be to walk through life knowing everyone’s heart and beautiful personality. If we take the time to get to know those we interact with frequently, then we’ll revel in a gratifying life. So, go into that dark house and find out why it really doesn’t have any decorations up this Christmas.