When I got up this morning, I had this sensation that I was being watched. As I went to the kitchen to make some hazelnut coffee, I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone else was in the room.
As the coffee brewed, I moved to the desktop computer to check news headlines. As my eyes were focused on the screen, I could sense other eyes watching my every move.
Then I went to the living room to begin this morning’s quiet time with the Advent devotional guide compiled by the children’s ministry at our church. When I closed my eyes to pray, somehow I perceived that other eyes were opened.
After a few more moments of praying for guidance, offering gratitude and remembering the poor, the homeless and those who are grieving during the holidays, I began to investigate the room more thoroughly. Everywhere I turned, there was Mary, Joseph and a baby Jesus looking my way.
My wife, Amanda, loves to decorate for Christmas. We have four themed Christmas trees: a Santa tree, a music tree, a white ornament tree and a favorite-ornaments tree adorned mostly with ornaments given to us by friends, students and parishioners. We also have an aging talking tree strategically located in the guest bathroom. Battalions of angels are also on display, including a chorus of wooden angels, treetop angels, porcelain angels, crocheted angels and a lighted angel atop the kitchen buffet who flaps her wings as if she is ready to launch.
Two fluffy stockings, one red and the other green, hang from the mantle below wooden block letters spelling “joy” and “noel.” The other wooden blocks in the entertainment cabinet spell “Merry Christmas!” Assorted Dickens Village scenes are located on the shelves of the entertainment center and on the library table – all lighted and wintry scenes depicting a typical English holiday.
The Christmas cards that we receive are hung from doorframes and over the kitchen bar. Some contain family photos; others portray holiday scenes and are inscribed with personal greetings. Our pink Christmas cactus is in full bloom on the computer desk and a few overnourished Santas are scattered around like centurions guarding the Christmas goodies. One jolly ole Santa flips his lid because he is really a cookie jar, which, ironically, is empty.
The central attraction in our Christmas display is the nativity. As I surveyed our house in the quiet of the morning to see who was watching, I counted 13 manger scenes, each depicting a unique perspective on the real meaning of Christmas.
Among the notable ones is a clear glass miniature grouping near the kitchen table. Another is a wooden set given to us by a Jewish craftsman in Birmingham, Ala. And the largest is a ceramic menagerie designed and painted by Amanda’s mother, now neatly arranged on top of an antique sideboard under a spotlight in our foyer.
They’re everywhere. Thirteen editions of the babe-in-a-manger. It occurred to me that everywhere I go in our home, I see Jesus. But the more important epiphany is that everywhere I go, Jesus sees me. If my eyes are on Jesus, and the eyes of Jesus are upon me, I have no excuse for missing the real joy of Christmas this year.
Barry Howard serves as senior minister at the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches. He and his wife, Amanda, live in Brookhaven, Georgia.