The Ugly Christmas Ornament

Every time I see her, I want to throw her away. She’s just some ugly ornament, I tell myself. Who’s really going to care about one two-inch Styrofoam ball haphazardly covered in cheap sequins?

Then I look at the white ribbon forming a loop hanger on the ball. In thin blue ink I read: made by Rebecca Whitman, Kindergarten in Peyton, Colorado.

All of a sudden, I am five years old again sitting at a round table, smiling with a pin in one hand and the ball in the other. I feel so much pride at my ability. I’m so grown up to be able to hold this dangerous object: a straight pen. My teacher fills my heart with hope and praise as she tells me how beautiful and well done my ornament is. When I take it home, it is celebrated as a truly wonderful work of art. I feel affirmed as an artist: fully alive and fully seen.

It has been over thirty years since that ball first became a part of our heritage tree. There are ornaments to celebrate every year of our lives across nearly two decades, but this one ugly ball starts and stops the Christmas magic for me.

The magic of Christmas, the hope of Christmas, came as a very imperfect thing. He was the hope of all mankind, the promised king sent to save a nation, but he came as a baby to a barn full of animal dung.

He never lived in a palace. He never wore a crown till it was one made of thorns. His people did not celebrate his progression to the throne, they went into hiding over it.

No one could see the beauty in an ugly life.

Everyone expected a trumpet-blazing, sword-welding, battle-winning King, so what was so amazing about a baby born in Nazareth?

Could anything good even come from there anyway?

We say a lot of things in ignorance when our faith is weak. God chose to save the world not just one nation through the sacrifice of the one thing he loved the most: his son, Jesus Christ. It was a sacrifice of a little bit of ugliness for an eternity of beauty restored in fellowship with us.

When I look at my ugly Christmas ball, I am reminded of all the things that bless our lives from unexpected places. I am reminded that hope is alive even in the darkness. I am thankful again for the happy childhood I had that so many children didn’t. And I begin to see the beauty I saw thirty years ago in my creation.

Magic happens.

A spark ignites.

I celebrate all I have to be thankful for.

What makes you feel the hope and joy—the magic—of Christmas?