The Sacred Art of Jesus

Shopping for inexpensive Christ artifacts.

In this season of mad scrambles over the newest Pokémon knickknack or another, it's easy to forget just exactly what it is we're all shopping for. It was, after all, the Big Guy's birth that initiated all of this madness -- and in the roughly 2000 years since that day in the manger, he's proven one thing, all right: The Son of God knows how to throw a party! So while your neighbors display their own personal festival of lights or creepy dancin' Santas as a way of saying "Happy Birthday, Savior!," we think it makes the most sense to select Christmas decor that more accurately reflects the holiday at hand.

Adorning your home -- and yourself -- with images of He Who Walked on Water doesn't have to cost much at all. The key is turning your cheek away from expensive shops and divining the best bargains. Denver's supply of eye-catching religious goods is fatter than a winter goose on a spit, and with just a little determination and a full tank of gas, you can easily put the Christ back in your Christmas shopping. Jesus turned water into wine, and you just might get a taste of what that felt like when you watch a meager buck or two reap a handsome harvest.

At the $1 Store (at 13th and Santa Fe Drive), we snatched up his-and-hers glow-in-the-dark Jesus and Mary night-lights, wall plug-ins that let the sacred hearts of Jesus and his mum light your way on both the true path and the one to the john in the middle of the night. (As a bonus, the instructions for Mary -- or Marie -- are also written in French, further proof that small plastic representations of the Immaculate Virgin know no cultural bounds!) We also picked up a bevy of wallet cards bearing holographic images of various scenes from the Life of Christ; after all, what's more fun than a dual pre- and post-crucifixion image to keep the in-laws busy for hours, after all the carols have been sung? "Now He's carrying the cross!" "Now He's on it!" and so on. If you're the kind of person who likes to take a quick peek at the Good Book while stuck in all that Christmas traffic, there's the handy "New Good Bible" key chain, 2,000 fully illustrated pages of mini-gospel, light enough to dangle from your ignition but full of heavy Truth. Deviating from its moniker, this particular buck boutique also offers a few items for those with a little extra cash: wall clocks bearing His likeness go for a cool $5.50 (two versions are displayed, appropriately enough, on either side of an Elvis wall clock -- the King of Heaven and the King of Rock 'n' Roll!). And for those who like their Eucharist with a little dash of the Vegas Strip, there's the illuminated, freestanding "Last Supper" plaque ($8): a soft, pastel rendering of that famous meal wherein red tracer lights bounce from a crown above J-Man's head up and down the arms of all his pals. It brings new meaning to the phrase "He is the light."

Just down the road on Santa Fe, Peña's Video (817 Santa Fe Drive) has a nice supply of personal wear to help dress you up in His love. Silver-plated belt buckles ($12-$30) depicting the Virgen de Guadalupe are attractive stocking stuffers, as fit for mass as for a night on the town, while gold and silver medallions depicting everything from the Virgin Mary in flowing robes to Jesus on the cross can hang on your tree as easily as they hang around your neck. Venture up toward the front counter at Peña's to say hello to owner Jesús (no relation) Peña, and you're likely to see some intriguing things under the glass: Phone cards bearing Our Lady's image allow you to atone for sins while making long-distance calls to loved ones, and a variety of refrigerator magnets with mugs of Jesus's pals St. Francis and St. Benedict are a handy way to tack up lists of who's been naughty -- and who's been nice. The Last Supper manifests itself once again at Peña's, in the form of a tapestry suitable for hanging on a wall or placing in front of a warm fire. Sit back, drink some cocoa and wrap yourself up in the warmth of God's woven love!

Of course, if your particular brand of faith doesn't necessitate the idol worship of saints and virgins or even His Holy Fish Multiplier, there are still plenty of goodies out there for you. The Family Christian Stores (3139 South Broadway and nine other locations) are one of many Denver-area Protestant gift and book stores with a wide selection of Jesus-centric merchandise in stock, from ceramic "Precious Moments" figurines ($5-$20), to watercolor paintings of Jesus in modern-day settings (playing baseball, talking with campers in the woods), to more "WWJD" bumper stickers than you can shake a loaf of leavened bread at. There's even plenty of fun stuff for the kids: everything from smiley faces imprinted with the announcement "I (heart) Jesus!" to piggy banks shaped like Bibles ($1-$3), since it's never too early to teach the children that the Lord helps he who helps himself, and that lovin' God means passin' cash!

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