Tuesday, December 1, 2009

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree . . .

This is a topic very dear to my heart: the Christmas tree.
For those of you who know my family, you know that Advent always begins with a trip to the Christmas tree farm. Once the tree is safely in the driveway, there's the issue of the hauling of it from the top of the car into the living room--imagine an elaborate pulley system on the front porch (if you are getting flash backs to a certain scene from "While You Were Sleeping" then you're on the right track). The tree is then decorated with dozens of strands of white Christmas lights, and weighed down by a multitude of memorable ornaments. Some are homemade; some are from our trusty Advent calendar (yes, we have an ornament calendar--quite spiffy); others are annual gifts from our parents so that we can have a collection of meaningful ornaments when we grow up.

As you read this, I bet you can imagine what it looks like--all those sparkly lights and red glowing balls. But there was one thing I neglected to mention, and it makes all the difference.

Every year my family selects a "Charlie Brown" tree to grace our home. It is never plush, it usually has a few branches missing, and it is often too tall, forcing us to chop off the top (adding to it's akwardness). But it is always the best tree. Just like the tree in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," it is not about what the tree does--how well is serves as a gift repository--but what is symbolizes. For Charlie Brown, the rejection of his tree causes him to ask, "Does anyone really know what Christmas is about?" Enter Linus, our trusty voice of reason who replies with his timeless quotation of Luke chapter 2.

*So a challenge to all of you who only see your tree as only a place to lay your gifts: Look at your Christmas tree with new eyes and see the beauty of God's creation, redemption and grace.

But there's more. The traditional Christmas tree is not the only shrub that can point us towards our Savior's birth. Have you ever heard of a Jesse Tree? Most of your probably haven't, but much like our trusty tanenbaum, a Jesse Tree is decorated with ornaments. These ornaments serve a specific purpose, however. Each item tells a story of the genealogy of Jesus, the HOPE of His coming, and (you've guessed it folks) a LINEAGE OF EXPECTATION.

*A second challenge: make a Jesse Tree this year. It doesn't have to be an actual tree--in fact, throughout history it has often appeared as a illustration or mosaic, somewhat like a family tree. Remember the history of God's promise, and examine the key players/events in the story.

Keep an eye out for some of these. Later this week I am going to introduce a few of these key players. Most of the time we dread reading through the lists of names in Chronicles and the beginning of Matthew, but these are all important characters in the story leading up to Jesus' arrival.

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