A Christmas Message — 2018

Let me tell you a Christmas story.

Several years ago, I noticed a small fir tree growing in a rocky area between my garage and a concrete path. Normally, I would simply pluck it out and discard it. But I had a different idea. What if I let it grow and use it as a Christmas tree one day?

As the years went by, I watched it grow. When the tree reached around 5 feet tall, I decided to cut it down and use it as our Christmas tree that year. My two daughters were excited about the idea.

We brought it into the house and set it up in the corner of the living room, the customary place where we put the tree. I began to have some doubts about using this homegrown tree when I had difficulty getting it into the tree stand, as the trunk was rather thin. But I went ahead.

First the lights. My doubts increased when I noticed that instead of the usual three strands of lights, this little tree only took two. But I persisted as my family enthusiastically dug in and started putting on the ornaments, with the recently homemade ornaments taking a prominent place on the tree.

The branches were rather sparse and flimsy and not able to hold the heavier ornaments. But everyone took joy in decorating our home-grown tree.

When we could not fit any more decorations on the tree, I took several steps back to look at it. Although I hated to admit it, the tree looked rather pathetic compared to trees in the past and what I had in mind as the perfect tree. It was short and scrawny. In spite of all the ornaments, you could see right through it as the branches were few. And the top stem that rather tentatively held the star drooped to the right.

The tree reminded me of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

I decided to hold my opinion as my family joyfully enjoyed the tree.

The next day as we were together again in the living room, putting out the manger scene and other festive decorations, I announced that I thought we should get a bigger, taller, and better tree. I wanted a perfect tree that wouldn’t embarrass me in front of our guests.
My oldest daughter, Julia, who had just finished college and was working with special needs children had a profound look of disappointment on her face. Then she spoke up.

“Dad.” she said, “I know that the tree does not look like others we have had. It Is not perfect, but it is special. Maybe it will help people think about Jesus and how he came to help all of us who are imperfect, including my students.”

Julia’s words made me think of the words Tiny Tim in Dicken’s Christmas Carol told his dad, Bob Cratchit, when they were coming home from church on Christmas Eve. Tiny Tim told his dad that he hoped that when people in church saw him as a cripple they might remember the man “who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

It is easy for all of us to get distracted by things on Christmas. Not just the commercialization of the day but by good things as well – gatherings of families and friends, gift giving, and splendid meals. We are distracted by trying to have the “perfect” Christmas.

But Jesus is not looking for perfection. Thank goodness for that. We are all separated from God due to our imperfect behavior. Jesus came to make us whole and to have a relationship with him. He came as the savior for everyone — the poor and smelly shepherds and rich kings among us.

We all need Jesus. Let’s celebrate Jesus’ birth. He is Emmanuel – God with us!

Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas celebration.

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