Last Tuesday, in “Decorating for Christmas, Part 1”, we saw that the ornaments all bring back precious memories. As we admire the beautiful ornaments this year, let’s remember the precious gift of Jesus and all of its components. Let’s “open” that gift of salvation, love, victory, comfort, peace and wisdom, and let’s make use of it today.
As I continued the Christmas decorations this year, the next thing out of the boxes was the set of nutcracker. I carefully removed them from the pillows that protected them and set them in a semi-circle on the hearth, the tall ones in the back and the short ones in the front. As I did so, I couldn’t help remembering a little exercise we had done as a family a few years ago. I had asked each person in the room to pick one symbol of Christmas and to share how that symbol reminded them of Jesus. My future daughter-in-law picked the nutcrackers, stating that they reminded her of the closeness and importance of family, and how in Christ we are all one big family. As I contemplated this, my mind began wandering down the paths of history, and I couldn’t help wondering how nutcrackers came to be a traditional part of Christmas. A quick “google search” revealed the following:
Nutcrackers originated in Germany, and according to folklore, they were given as keepsakes to bring good luck and protect your home. They represented power and strength, and they served as “watch dogs”, bearing their teeth to evil spirits and protecting the family against harm.
Nutcrackers apparently also reflect ancestral dining customs. Unusual nutcrackers were part of the social setting, providing a whimsical–and useful!–conversation piece as guests rounded out their meal with pecans and hazelnuts.
Nutcrackers didn’t become popular in the Americas until about 50 years ago. GIs stationed in Germany during WWII found an intriguing companion in the nutcracker, and they brought them back to the Americas upon their return.
In general, nutcrackers have always been enjoyed for their whimsical expressions and their authentic costumes and charm. It is said that the hidden message of the nutcracker is this: “Don’t be afraid, my beard is long, my head is large, my look is grim, but that matters not. I won’t bite you. In spite of my big mouth and grim appearance, I look with my heart for your happiness.”
What can we learn as we set out our nutcrackers at Christmas time?
Just this: Nutcrackers serve as an important reminder of just one part of Jesus’ indescribable gift that we celebrate at Christmas: Jesus is our strength, our power and our protection: “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.” (Ps. 46:1-3). His gift at the cross conquered sin and subdued the power of the dark side once and for all, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:56, 57), and when we accept Him into our hearts, we have access to His gift of protection. When we make use of every part of Christ’s indescribable gift, we find that we indeed have a fierce protector who looks with His heart for our happiness: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
In this traditionally useful tool for the opening of nuts, we also see how practical Jesus is. He isn’t just about helping us through our big problems; He is about carrying us through every aspect of our everyday lives. Why struggle to open a nut by hand, when you could open it with a nutcracker? In the same way, Jesus tells us, “Why struggle handling that problem by yourself, when I can handle it for you?” (“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28-30; “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matt 6:31-33)
I hope and pray that you will never look at a nutcracker in the same way again. Instead of seeing the whimsical wooden man, remember that Jesus is our “nutcracker”, and we have access to this incomprehensible power simply by accepting His ultimate gift, the one we celebrate this Christmas.
Please join us on Saturday to learn what we can glean from the lights on the Christmas tree: “Decorating for Christmas, Part 3”.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the entire “Decorating for Christmas” mini-series, please click here.)