Just a couple of days after Thanksgiving two of my kids (thank you Grace and Samuel!) put up our tree, straightened the branches, hung the lights (after figuring out half of them no longer worked!) and placed our tree topper, a crown of thorns, at the highest point. The plan was to add the ornaments the next day. The next day turned into the next weekend; which was extended by another week until we all decided that the tree still looked nice even without all of the ornaments.
This is the first tree in our 22 years of marriage that isn’t decked out with ornaments, but in many ways it fits the kind of year it’s been. While much of our personal life has stayed the same in 2020, for so many we love it has looked quite different. Their “world” has been stripped bare of many of the “ornaments” that beautifully hung on their lives, filling their days, weeks and months.
Bryan’s uncle was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer this year. My grandparents’s circumstances, after spending months in near isolation in their assisted living apartment, were drastically altered when my grandpa died from complications due to a massive heart attack, and my Grammy suffered a debilitating stroke which left her unable to move well or communicate verbally with us.. We know several people that have lost children, siblings, parents and friends. One of the dear gals in our church has begun the slow process of regaining strength to do even the simplest of tasks after 42 days in the hospital from Covid. There is the everyday loss of jobs (or drastic changes in how to perform those jobs), income, freedoms, wedding plans, vacation plans, family get-togethers and so many other losses that may seem small in comparison to life and death, but still have changed the rhythm and routines of our lives in a way that is difficult and often painful.
So, as I look at the largest decoration in our home, I am continually reminded about what life is truly all about…even when the losses come, both small and great.
The tree is a reminder of the cross and the reason Jesus came to earth in the first place. We cannot properly celebrate His birth without understanding His purpose:
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”. Galatians 3:13
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
The crown of thorns echos the message of the cross, yet is also a reminder that He was not only marred and killed to pay the penalty for our sins, but He rose victorious and conquered the grave, sin and hell. He rules and reigns over all. He is our example. He is our Head. He is our sovereign Lord and Savior:
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” John 11:25
“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Colossians 1:18
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Phil. 3:20-21
The lights remind me of who He is. He does not just bring light into the world, He is Himself the Light. Only in Him and through His Word do we see life properly:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Isaiah 9:2
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6
The ornaments add a beauty to the tree, no doubt. And the ornaments that adorn our lives, the earthly gifts God has given, bring sweet joy to our hearts and fill our lips with thanksgiving. But when all is stripped away…whether it happens slowly as we live out our days on earth, in spurts as we go through each season of life, or in a moment when death comes like a robber…will Christ be what is left? Will our lives still look beautiful because they are hidden in Christ and His glory shines through us?
This year, our tree may look plain to most, but it’s a reminder that our family needs. Maybe yours does, too!
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36