Tuesday, December 18, 2012

You, Me and the Christmas Tree

The most magical time of the year is upon us: Christmas!  Houses light up with brilliant colors along with the scents that stimulate our senses and put us in a festive mood that accentuates the season.  Most spectacularly are the Christmas trees that are on display.  Christmas trees come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are short, some are tall, some have full branches, and some...well, not so much.  Let’s just say that there are trees that only Charlie Brown could love.  Even though each tree is unique in its own character, they all are the same, they are a tree. 
Christmas trees are a lot like people.  We all have our unique characteristics and traits, but yet we are all different.  Some are short, some are tall, some are male, and some are female.  Each person is unique in their own character, we are all the same; we are human beings. 
In this day and age many people have artificial trees, so you’ll have to think back to a time when there were only real trees, and you used to go get your tree annually from a tree lot.  If there are those of you who still purchase your Christmas tree each year, I applaud you!  There are still purists in the world, but I digress.  When you go to the Christmas tree lot, you look the trees over and you pick one out.  If you’re the typical male, you go pick a tree put it on the car roof and go home.  If you’re a typical female you shop and shop all day and finally after hours of walking the tree lots you FINALLY find a tree that you can live with.  OK, OK, I’m exaggerating, but not too much!  Sorry, back to the point!  The point is we all are picked.  More specifically, we are all picked by God.  Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”  Even before you were a speck in your mother and father’s eyes, God knew you and was forming you.  Just as we take great care in picking out the perfect tree; making sure it’s not too tall and that it will fit in the perfect spot right by the front window for all the neighborhood to see, so God takes great effort in creating life and giving each person specific characteristics that will enhance other people’s lives.  In Acts 26:16 Paul is recounting the experience he had with God on the road to Damascus.  There on that road God tells Paul, “I have appeared to you, because I have chosen you to be my servant.”  All life is sacred, all life has importance, and all of us have a role to play in each others’ lives.
Once a tree has been picked, it must be purchased.  There is a price to be paid for the tree that you tie to the roof of the car. There is a salesman usually helping you pick out a tree, and when you find the tree you want, he says the price.  You have the right to purchase it or to look further for another tree, but when you find the one you want; you have to pay the man.  In the same way, we have to be purchased.   First Corinthians 6:19, 20 says “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.”  Here on earth we are imperfect people.  In Heaven everything is perfect, because God is perfect.  At Christmas we celebrate the birth of our “Savior” who was born specifically to pay the ultimate price of His life so that the imperfect people that we are could enjoy an eternity in a perfect Heaven.  No matter how long you look for a Christmas tree, there will be imperfections; it will either tilt too much or maybe one side is flatter than the other side.  Just like a tree we all have imperfections.  When we are left on our own to find a way to heaven our sins (imperfections) will eliminate us from an entrance into a perfect Heaven. 
Now that we have our tree picked and purchased we need to bring it into our house.  The tree comes off the roof of the car and the family is proudly carrying it into the house when all of a sudden, NO!   It won’t fit through the door!  Or maybe you get it in the door, but you stand it up, and you realized you picked the leaning tower of Pisa!  Whatever the situation, since we know that each tree has flaws, we need to prune our tree before we actually bring it in the house.  In the same way God is pruning us throughout this life to prepare us to bring us in to His House.  John 15:2 says “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  Most Christmas trees are labeled with the tag “all sales final”.  There is no taking it back.  So what’s a person to do?  Well, you get the saw and cut away some branches to make a better fit.  Maybe you even have to cut the stump.  Whatever pruning you have to do, you do it so that you can have the best looking tree possible.  If the Christmas tree could talk, I’m sure that it would be none too pleased that its branches are being plucked, and I’m sure it would scream in pain when things are cut off.  In the same way when we are pruned, there isn’t much that we really like about it.  It’s sure to be painful.  We may not scream in pain, but don’t we wonder why God is doing this?  Left as we are we can’t be presented in a perfect Heaven.   Left as it is a tree can’t be brought into our home, it must be pruned. 
Part of the pruning process is after we get the tree in the house we get to decorate it.  That is the fun part of pruning!  Memories are made when the family gets together and puts the lights on the tree and the many different ornaments that make the tree unique.  When a tree is decorated, it sparkles!  Once a tree is decorated, there are presents to be put under the tree for people to discover and open up.  Each tree is unique in that fact; because each tree won’t have the same exact gifts underneath it each tree is different in that way.   As individuals, God decorates us with different ornaments that show off the beauty of His creative work.  When He decorates us we sparkle!  God puts gifts under our “tree” for people to find as well.  Someone might find compassion, some might for humility, and so on.  It’s up to us to let those gifts be found. 
The Christmas tree is an attractive thing to behold at this time of the year.  When you see one, take time to discover its true beauty, flaws and all.  People are attracted to our “tree beauty” because they see in us the love that we have for God and for each other.  It’s my prayer all of us “trees” would let God do His work in our lives, so that others discover the Christmas gifts that are in all of our lives.
I want to thank Max Lucado for the basic outline of this piece.  I heard a sermon from him on this subject, and it stuck with me.  I also want to thank Denny Hartford for rekindling the writing gift that God has given me.  I might not write novels or have anything ever published, and I’m sure that my “technical” style might make English teachers cringe, but what I write comes from within.  Thanks for taking time to read this.

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