Visions of His glory

What did Mary see? An angel visiting at her front door. A bustling town so busy that there were no rooms at the inn. A barn full of animals. Excited shepherds worshipping her firstborn son and telling tales of angel choruses. The mother of our Lord saw a lot, and Luke says, "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."What are you seeing this Christmas? The joy of sharing Christmas programs and student-led Christmas services are highlights of Lutheran-school calendars. My wife and I include within our Christmas traditions Lessons and Carols at Concordia University Chicago (last weekend) and Christmas at the Embassy, which is presented by the Concordia Lutheran High School music department. (It's this Sunday at 4 p.m.--do you have your tickets?) Each of these events beautifully share the Christmas story and seem to create a connection with all who attend.Why is it that Christmas tugs at our hearts? We seem to connect with this message. No doubt much of the tug is its "Immanuel" message (God with us). The reality of God in human form, the Creator walking with His creation--it's "a great and mighty wonder" that God comes to us so uniquely.But I also wonder if the love for Christmas is also a matter of our using the full wealth of human senses to share the story--and do it better at Christmas than any other event of the Church.Consider the fact that most people are visual learners, and when words are connected with images, learning is maximized (Gwen C. Nugent's article "Pictures, audio, and print: symbolic representation and effect on learning" published in Educational Technology Research and Development, Volume 30, Number 3 (1982), 163-174).Brain research also demonstrates that human eyes are capable of registering 36,000 visual messages per hour, and that over 80 percent of all information that is absorbed by the brain is visual in nature.Some of the best communicators in history--including our Savior (e.g., His parables)--taught using the power of the metaphor and image. (Consider reading more on the topic of visual learners on Tim Elmore's blog.)In light of these facts, it's a small wonder that the Christmas narrative is so ingrained in our hearts. The visual of angels breaking through the darkness of night and singing to a ragtag group of shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem is shared with hymns, carols, art, and actors. A barn as the initial home for the King of Kings is depicted with manger scenes at home, church, and even in "live" settings outside of churches. Mary caring for the Savior of the world while travelers from a distant land arrive with kingly gifts--gifts of great riches, but gifts that also foreshadow the King's future death. You've "seen" this message shared in many ways over your life--in picture books, videos, and programs.Really, when all is said and done, Lutheran schools teach Christmas with all the wisdom and insights of 21st century best teaching practices! Images are everywhere in the Christmas narrative, and through our many senses, the message is shared in a variety of ways--ways that become fixed in our hearts.As Christmas nears and you enjoy the events and activities, the staff of TLSP encourages you to "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." (Col 3:16).