Last night it was cold enough for a fire. Fall is slipping into winter, time again to take the cozy down comforter off the shelf in the hall linen closet.

It is pumpkin pie weather, time for hearty stews, baking bread, and decorating the Christmas tree. I love pine and cedar candles and I love receiving Christmas cards and hearing carols sung.

Most of all, I love the manger scenes. We have three. One is made for children and we set it out in the spare bedroom upstairs for our grandchildren to play with. It is made by Playmobile and comes complete with the full cast of familiar characters: camel, donkey, sheep, wise men, shepherds, and of course, the holy family.

The second one is primitive, made of wood in muted, earthy colors. It is in the formal living room.

But just a few weeks ago, Greg ordered a kitschy retro light-up one for the front yard. He thinks it is too small, but I love it nestled among the white pansies and alyssum under the lighted olive tree. Allie has taken a special liking to it, as have so have many of the neighborhood children.

For Christians around the world, Advent may or may not be celebrated with lighted manger scenes and exchanging gifts. Many, myself included, may struggle to stand against the tide of merchandising and trivializing this holy day. Let’s remember to keep our focus on the immense spiritual significance we mark on December 25.

Regardless of whether your shopping, baking, and decorating were completed before December 1 (By the way, congratulations; that’s quite an achievement!) . . . or not, we haven’t even begun to appreciate Jesus’ birth until our hearts are bowed in worship. May the wonder of Christmas always be focused on the King of the universe, who came as a helpless Infant to a world that would for the most part reject, torture, and kill Him.

Our King came to His rebel planet to claim His treasure. It was the grand plan conceived in eternity to rescue and restore the kingdom that is His. The sweetness of the story we often hear should not diminish the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, made on our behalf.

As C.S. Lewis put it so eloquently and graphically:

“He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still . . . to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. [He is like a] diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover.”