It came yesterday, barely crowding through our doorway, bursting into our house with a rain of fragrant needles, refusing to be tamed neatly into its assigned place.
The tree of life.
Really? Into the midst of this overfull space, this overfull schedule? Do we need this rough, real, unruly immensity pushing in, spilling forth into our current upheaval? What good will it bring to our messy, needy, complicated life?
Tonight we will ask, “Why do we hang lights on our tree?”
The younger children will dance about in high excitement, as their older siblings did once upon a time, “Because Jesus is the light of the world!”
“What do these apples stand for?”
“The fruit that Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden! When they sinned! That’s why we needed Jesus to come and die for us!”
“What does all the red mean?”
“Jesus’ blood, when He died for our sin!”
“Why the white?”
“He makes us white as snow!”
“Because He gives us everlasting life!”
“Why this gold?”
“The gold the wise men brought the baby Jesus! Because He’s the King!”
“Why do we hang so many angels on our tree?”
“Because God sent angels to tell the people that Jesus was born!”
“What about the cinnamon and orange slices?”
“Frankincense and myrrh!”
“Good news!! Good news!! Jesus is born!!” The children by this time bouncing and shouting exuberantly, ringing the bells throughout the house.
He came, He lived, He died, He returned to heaven.
What good did it do?
What difference did He make?
Did He bring a miracle to their messy, complicated, needy circumstances? Were they not still oppressed by Rome? And would their capital city not fall to Rome a few decades later?
What had changed because He was there?
What has changed because He is here?
Does He bring a miracle to mend all our messy and complicated circumstances? Are we not still plagued by ever-present trouble? Are we not still waiting for relief?
All has not yet been set right.
Then what has changed? What is this miracle that has come bursting forth from its place into our pain, our mess, our sin?
His light in exchange for our darkness.
His beauty…for our ashes.
His freedom…for our bondage to insistent, fruitless cravings.
His rest…for our stressful, anxious striving.
His love…for our narcissism.
His hope…for our self-satisfaction, or cynicism, or despair.
His peace…for our fear, our rage.
His transcendent joy…for our capricious and transient feelings.
His life for ours.
Do we really need this? Crowding in, pushing in, swallowing up our plans, our dreams, our agendas, our lives, ourselves. Lavish, real, beauteous, free, radiant, never-ending life. His life.
Do we really need this?
YES, YES, YES!!
Welcome, Lord Jesus!!
And always, inside and underneath and encompassing everything else, there is the gift of grace.