I looked up in bewilderment from my phone conversation as my husband rushed in through the front door from work and holding a scraggly handful of bramble over my head kissed me. Thus I received my first experience of mistletoe and the consequence of being found underneath its berry-adorned twigs. Having accomplished his mission, my husband had lain it on the kitchen counter and we had gone about the evening’s activities.
The next morning, cleaning up, I eyed it suspiciously, examining the dull green bundle with its mildly pearlescent berries. Knowing that the Americanized application of mistletoe at Christmas was associated with kissing, a verse from Psalm two began to impress itself on my thoughts, “…kiss the Son lest He be angry…” And so I was convinced that it belonged somewhere in our observance of Christmas, this our first year in Europe. I tied its ends together with a red ribbon and hung it on one side of the dining room’s double doors.
When I cautiously mentioned it later that day to a visiting German friend she explained that mistletoe was generally sold door to door by roving bands of gypsies who were dropped off to solicit in German neighborhoods. She went on to caution me against such vendors at my door. But as my eye caught it throughout the day, the phrase ‘kiss the Son’ continued to present itself. A few pauses for reflection reminded me that one definition of the word worship is ‘to approach to kiss’, and I sensed a sanctifying impulse towards this scraggly addition to my Christmas decor. Somehow this humble bush was beginning to be an advent summons to prepare to worship… to worship the Son.
I had already been drawn to the book of Hebrews for my advent Scripture reading, as imagery of Christ the coming King had filled my mind from my literature and apologetics studies. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings has inspired visions of how to welcome and celebrate an earthly king, in the coronation and ascension of the noble character Aragorn. Commentary on the first few verses from the Spirit-filled Bible had immediately introduced me to the seven excellencies of Jesus, the Son, the exalted King through Whom God now speaks to our world. I began to ponder and memorize them: He is the appointed Heir of all things; the worlds were made through Him; He is the brightness of Glory; being God’s express image; the word of His power is upholding all things; He single-handedly purged our sins, and He is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
I pondered the ironies of the Christmas nativity scene, which has had artists of ages past illuminating and decorating it, and artists of the present seeking to unveil and expose. Singer, Carolyn Arends, realistically points out, ‘it was probably not a silent night’; there was blood, Joseph sweated bullets, the baby likely cried, and probably so did His mother. Despite the stark realism, lyricist, Fred Jay wrote, “For a spell or two, no one seemed forlorn, This came to pass when the Child was born”. The gloriously adorned and singing heavenly hosts of Neo-Classic paintings readily grabs our attention in those depictions on Christmas cards, as do the majestic Magi bringing tribute to the One true King of Kings. But looking at any nativity portrait, there is no doubt where the focus rightly lies. It’s with the baby.
And who can resist wanting to kiss the face, hands, or tender feet of a precious newborn baby? The Shepherds rightly worshipped as the angels looked on. The latter marveling at the irony, knowing the unspeakable splendor from which the second person of the Godhead had descended to a maiden’s womb and now a feeding trough. Thirty-three years later, Mary of Bethany got it. She anointed His head with oil, washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair…kissing the Son… on His way to the cross.
The psalmist’s message was a warning to rebellious heathen nations,
“Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”(Ps.2: 10-12)
I considered the message of my nondescript mistletoe bundle: “Kiss the Son…” It will likely get initially overlooked as eyes get drawn to the flashing lights and decorations of the Christmas tree, and in hopes of what might be beneath it. But I am hoping that its apparent rustic appearance will cause a second glance, its muted green and subdued berries, draw the eyes deeper still, into further consideration:
May we appropriately move beyond the humble nature of Jesus’ first advent as a vulnerable kissable baby; may we, like Mary of Bethany, recognize Him as the anointed Saviour given to redeem all people— despised, unscrupulous gypsies, modern despotic super-powers or self-sanitized sinners of all stripes in between. And may the message of the mistletoe also call us to “kiss the Son”, to bow our entire being in worship— to adore the seven-times excellent One, of His second advent— Christ the Lord and soon coming King!