This past weekend I had a National Trust double-header. On Friday, I went to Waddesdon Manor with a girlfriend and on Saturday, my husband, Ben, and I took the children to see Father Christmas at Standen Manor in Sussex. I don’t think I could have ever imagined how much we use of our National Trust membership but there is something about the properties that is truly magical. History comes alive!
Christmastime is an especially good time to explore the many nearby historical houses. Volunteers have spent countless hours putting up trees, stringing lights, tending the gardens and decorating for Christmas. Some homes, such as Waddesdon, have elaborate, carefully designed and decorated rooms with extravagant furnishings and themed trees, while others, such as Standen, have stayed true to the era in which the house was built and there is a homely warmth that feeds the spirit. As you wander through the houses and walk the extensive grounds you can’t help but imagine what it would have been like to live in such luxury. It is not hard to get into the Christmas spirit and yet, the setting of the first Christmas stands in stark contrast to the grandeur of a place like Waddesdon. The very first Christmas did not take place in a grand manor house, but rather, in a lowly, dirty, smelly, little cattle stall.
I think that often, it is too easy to get caught up in the luxury of Christmas –everything there is to do, to see, and to buy. Being a born perfectionist, I find myself getting distracted by all the events in my diary, the many gifts there are to buy or make, and the need to have everything just perfect, but this is not what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about being home.
On that first Christmas God sent his son to make a home among us so as to dwell with us. Christmas, to God, is not about having the perfect décor or colour coordinated wrapping paper. I can’t imagine that the smell of roasted turkey wafted through the air as Mary and Joseph opened the door to the stable but rather, I suspect, it smelled of hay and manure. Nor can I imagine that a Christmas music mix was playing in the background. Perhaps all Mary and Joseph heard was simply the sound of cows chewing their dinner or a lamb bleating, but God came anyway. You see, God was not concerned about the state of the world–it did not need to be perfect or beautifully decorated. In fact, it was because of the broken and messy state of the world that He came.
As we prepare our homes to welcome family and friends, let us also prepare our hearts to be a home worthy of the King: perfect in humility and beautiful in brokenness.