Oh, Christmas Tree!
Yesterday I told my wife, Lisa, I can’t stand our Christmas tree. Technically there is nothing wrong with it, I just think it looks like a messy Christmas ornament yard sale. We use a ton of different, personalized ornaments so they’re all unique and usually represent a Christmas memory of some sort. Lisa’s family Christmas tradition is to give a new ornament as a gift to each person in the family, every year. After nearly 40 years that adds up to a lot of ornaments!
We have so many ornaments now that they could never fit on one tree. Even after filling our entire tree with ornaments we have a couple boxes of ornaments left.
When will the madness end?
I prefer the kind of Christmas tree with similarly designed ornaments and trimming, kind of like the Christmas trees that decorate our church. Each one has its own theme and color scheme and look much neater and tidier. The order to the design gives me a warm feeling of serenity, unlike the busy, messy look that stresses me out.
As much as our Christmas tree drives me nuts, it recently served as a beautiful metaphor I hadn’t considered before. It may have even caused me to be slightly less annoyed with it.
As I looked upon the mess of ornaments hanging all over our tree, like a badly organized garage sale, it hit me - this looks a lot like God’s love for us. Let me explain.
Throughout history the Christmas tree has symbolized Christ in several ways. First, the year-round green color of the pine tree is analogous to the life-everlasting that Jesus offers all of us. The extremely durable pine needles keep their green color throughout every season and weather condition. In a similar way we can depend on God’s love for us, through the provision of Jesus, no matter what.
Secondly, and maybe more obviously, the Christmas lights symbolize Jesus as the light of the world. Jesus says, in John 12:46, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should remain in the darkness.” One of my favorite holiday pastimes is to drive through neighborhoods at night looking at houses decorated with lights. It always reminds me of the light of Christ shining in a dark world.
Then there are the ornaments. Ugh! As much as I hate to admit it, there is a beauty to that cluttered mess hanging haphazardly on our tree. As I stared at them, I realized that they represent each one of us, hung on the unconditional love of God. As imperfect and haphazard looking as we are, God takes great delight in the mess of us all, proudly displaying us as the focus of His love.
In a way, we make Jesus look messy as we desperately cling to Him, the only source of redemption and restoration. Like the bleeding woman mentioned in the gospels clinging to the tassels of Jesus’ cloak, Nicodemus awkwardly approaching Jesus under the cover of night (John 3), or Peter arrogantly swearing his allegiance to Jesus even to death (Luke 22), so we all clumsily hang on to His promises. It’s rarely ever pretty, neat, or tidy.
In fact, that is the point. It’s our messy, sinful lives that point to the unmatched glory of God. Hopefully this year, as we remember God’s ultimate provision through Jesus, we don’t distract from this message by looking too good or giving the impression that we have it all together. Hopefully, like the mess of ornaments hanging on my Christmas tree, we embrace the truth of our own sin, and the beauty of the good news of the gospel. In order to grasp the significance of Emmanuel, God with us, we must be willing to let go, trust Him, and become comfortable with the truth of our brokenness. Only then will we be able, like Jesus, to be a light ourselves.
In 2013 Mike joined Orchard Hill's Adult Ministry Team as the Life Stage Pastor and Director of Men's Ministry. Prior to Orchard Hill he was an Area Director for Young Life in the northwest suburbs of Chicago for almost 9 years. Mike also served 6 years in the Air Force National Guard at the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Coraopolis, PA.
A proud Robert Morris University alumni, Mike has a degree in Communications and Media Production. He received his seminary degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL) and was ordained by Orchard Hill Church in October, 2017.
When Mike isn’t working on home improvement projects he loves spending time with his wife, Lisa, and son, Matteo, going for walks and bike rides together.