It was the Tuesday after Thanksgiving this year, so Kimberly and I initiated a yearly ritual that we have done many times before. It was time to decorate the house for Christmas. Now there are many parts to decorating the house for the holidays, but there is one part of the process that is the most fun of all: putting up the Christmas tree. At first glance, putting up the Christmas tree is no big deal … after all, it is just a fake piece of plastic and metal that sits in our living room 30 days every year. Upon further examination, however, it is easy to see why this event is so special to us.
As we prepare to decorate the tree, we unpack boxes of ornaments that each hold a special memory. There are the little crystal scenes that Kimberly’s grandmother has purchased for all the grandkids each year from the gift shop down in Holton, Kansas. There is the ceramic rocking horse that I broke the first Christmas I helped Kimberly’s family decorate their tree. There is the wooden soldier ornament that first hung on my parent’s Christmas tree four decades ago. In a sense, we are decorating that tree with ourselves, or at least many of the memories that we hold dear.
Before we can put all these ornaments on the tree, however, we have to first string the lights. Over the years I have gotten this down to a science. I pull out the strands of lights and plug them in to make sure that all the lights are working. After I have assured myself of success, I begin to wrap these lights around the Christmas tree. Over the years, this has always been a part of the process I did by myself. It was my small contribution to the Christmas setting at our house. This year, however, I had a helper.
As I stretched the lights out to prepare them for hanging, my nearly 2 year old son, Joshua, was right in my hip pocket. Sensing that the skill for exterior and interior illumination was found in the male genes, he was quick to be my understudy, and studied under my feet throughout the decorating process. My son is very smart, however, he could not quite figure out what I was doing. As I would stretch the lights out, he would wrap them back up around himself. Many times in my life, I am all about completing the project, and under some normal circumstances, I might have been tempted to be frustrated at the lack of efficiency I was experiencing because of my new found helper. However, these were not normal circumstances, and I was anything but frustrated. In fact, I was filled with joy. Because I love my son, involving him in my plans is an awesome byproduct of completing the task.
I tell you this story today, because three Tuesdays have passed since we decorated that tree, and Christmas day is soon upon us. As I reflect on the Christmas story, I see some similarities to Josh and I’s experiences decorating the tree.
Christmas is the time when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. As Christians we know that Jesus was born to eventually die on the cross in our place so that we might have our sins forgiven and get to experience a relationship with the living God. In a sense, Jesus was born to decorate a tree on the hill of Calvary with Himself, to offer life to those He held dear.
However, before Jesus could die for our sins on that tree, He had to be born. The Light of the World had to shine in time before it could be strung on that tree. When we examine the events related to the birth of Jesus, we see lots of inefficiency.
Luke 2:1-3 talks about all of the Roman Empire moving around to go to the city of their ancestors for a census. Luke 2:4-7 talks about Mary and Joseph traveling scared, tired, and very pregnant long miles to a city with no room in the inn. Luke 2:8-20 talks about lowly shepherds being visited by angels and invited to visit the Savior’s birthplace. In Matthew 2:1-12, the Magi see a star in the East and come to visit the newborn King.
While the story did not need censuses and mangers and shepherds and Magi, it certainly included them. Why? Because it reminds us that Jesus loves people and is pleased to include them in His plans. No announcement was needed, but the shepherds got the invitation. No gifts were required, but the Magi were able to hand their blessings off.
While I am convinced no one in this story was able to completely wrap themselves around all that was going on, it seems as if the story unfolds the way it does because God loves people like you and me. He loves honored people like the Magi, and ordinary people, like the shepherds. He loves men, like Joseph, and women, like Mary.
Think about that this Christmas season. Jesus loves you, and because He does, He wants to include you in His plans. It has been that way from the very beginning. There are things God wants to do in and through your life today, not because He has to, but because He wants to do it with you. He longs to share His hope with others through your words and actions. It might be more efficient if He simply used lightning bolts, but that is not the point. Because He loves us, involving us in His plans is an awesome byproduct of completing the task.