It’s the season of cold weather, snowflakes (in some parts of the country), reindeer, eating holiday desserts everyday, Christmas music, Christmas trees, and…the newborn King, Jesus. My thoughts turned to Christmas trees the other day. I haven’t seen any statistics on how much we, as Americans, spend buying a tree and decorating it, but it can’t be a small number. We love our Christmas trees (and the presents underneath it). My thoughts then turned to us Christians. The holiday is, indeed, a Christian celebration of the birth of the Messiah, so the comparisons between Christmas trees and Christians are appropriate and humbling.
How many of us buy Christmas trees but don’t decorate them? No one does that! We buy them, stand them up in the most prominent place of our house for all to see, cover them with lights and ornaments, and top them off with an angel, a star, (or a monkey finger puppet, like I’ve done in the past).
Now, the tree has its own symbolism, along with the gifts, but I’m offering a new one; one that stings a little, but potentially helpful, nonetheless.
So, the tree’s bought, the kids have helped wreck decorate it, and the monkey finger puppet is looking down on your happy family with protective care—great. There’s only one problem–the tree is dead! Congratulations. You have successfully dressed up a dead tree. Merry Christmas!
Of course, you know it’s dead; why else would you pour water in the tree stand (except for the prevention of it going up in flames from the thousands of lights you wrapped it in)? If the water wasn’t a give-away, then time certainly is. What happens when January rolls around? The needles start to turn from a beautiful green to brown, which is not anything like the leaves up north changing colors in autumn. Those same now-brown needles begin to make their way to your floor, where the 7-year old pug (at our house) tries to snack on them (bad Kobe!). The strong branches holding the ceramic ornaments your grandmother made you can no longer stick out, and now sag close to the ground. Finally, the pleasant odor of evergreen gives way to…well…expired evergreen. It was nice while it lasted.
Standing next to the Christmas tree, both literally and metaphorically, is the Christian. How have we arranged our lives so that we’re appearing very much alive, but in reality, we are simply not? We are Christians, but struggling to stay connected to the Source of life. The result is not a surprise—they are not being loved by us as God intended and defined. Our love of people may be going okay now, but like with the uprooted Christmas tree, time will tell. Or crisis. Or success. Something will reveal how alive we really are. The water in the tree stand will run out. We’ll start turning brown and smelling bad. Thank God, however, we’re not exactly like the tree; we can get reconnected with those Roots.
Dressing up a tree is a wonderful tradition. This year, as your family gathers to make it shine, remember to stay connected to King Jesus, whom we celebrate, so that you don’t wither away like that dead tree you’re trying to keep alive. Merry Christmas!