Tag Archives: Christmas

The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree

Some of you saw my social media pic of our kitten up in the Christmas tree. I laughed when a friend commented that we’ld be lucky if the whole tree didn’t fall because it immediately transported me back to 2009: The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree.

That was our first year in our house we still live in, and I remember trying to decide the best place for the tree. I wasn’t thrilled with where we put it, but even more bothersome was the top of the tree was tilted. Every morning when I came into the living room it was not the pretty lights or the ornaments I saw (many of which had been wedding shower gifts), but only the imperfect tree.

I asked my husband to fix it. But without undecorating and starting completely over that was no easy feat. He did try; only it made it worse. I was not happy, and my whole family knew.

But it got worse…

As you can probably guess, the tree eventually fell. We were all home when it happened. And of course, the front of the tree – with all my most valuable and sentimental ornaments – is what hit the ground.

Apart from sweeping  up the shattered glass, it’s all a blur now. But what I’m left with is more than a funny Christmas story, but the story God has been writing in me that the crooked tree perhaps sparked.

You see, I wanted the perfect tree because I had made it a reflection of me. If it looked bad, I looked bad. Therefore, when anyone came into our home, I made it known that I was fully aware the tree was crooked before they could judge me. Ridiculous, huh? But even more than other’s opinions, it was my own standard with no room for failure that accused me of not measuring up. Is it any  wonder then I couldn’t enjoy the lights and decorations on the tree with imperfection glaring back at me?

This sounds crazy, but I was looking for my identity in a perfectly decorated tree! As if it could give me a secure worth! But we do this with all sorts of things – our home, our physical appearance, our performance, and that of our husband or kids.  They all become measuring sticks for how we are doing.

Of course, in and of themselves there is nothing wrong with wanting our house to look pretty, a cute outfit to wear, obedient kids or even a straight Christmas tree. But when these things become something we obsess over, can’t let go of,  have to have, find pride in, feel better than others for, or we think has to be fixed it is a sure tell sign these things are acting as our functional “gods.”

What’s even crazier is the perfection we strive for is already securely ours in Christ.  No matter how hard we try to build our own identity we can’t ever measure up to God’s standard. But the good news is, we don’t have to. Jesus did it for us!

When we are in Christ, we have his righteousness and God’s unwavering acceptance.  To look to anything else for merit, or identity, is to live as if what Jesus did was not enough.

There was beauty in my imperfect tree, I just couldn’t see it because I was focused on the wrong thing. Similar to how we do ourselves. We see what’s missing, where we fail to measure up and what we’ve done wrong. But when God’s grace crashes into our crooked lives we begin to see his beauty shines brighter in our brokenness.

That same year of the crooked Christmas tree, my daughter made a paper mache Christmas tree in her sixth grade art class. It too was crooked, not by design. (I should’ve seen the foreshadowing!)

That paper mache tree is what replaced my broken Radko ornament as one of my favorite Christmas treasures. When I look at it, and read back over the stories the kids wrote about “The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree,” I am reminded of my need for Jesus and his perfect love for me.

So as we deck our halls this season, may the lights and decor serve not as a means to adorn ourselves with any glory of perfection, but to draw our eyes to the One who hung on a tree so his perfection could be ours.

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What We Can Learn from the Little Drummer Boy

Since I was a child the “Little Drummer Boy” Christmas carol has been a favorite of mine – I think because of all the “pa rum pum pums!”   I haven’t heard the song yet this season (probably because I can’t stop listening to Christy Nockel’s new Christmas album), but the other morning while reading Ann Voskamp’s advent devotional book, The Greatest Gift, the little drummer boy popped into my head.  A certain sentence from the Day 2 reading struck me and it occured to me that the little boy had it right and perhaps we could learn something from him. Or, at least be reoriented back to something we may believe, but don’t live as if it’s true.

As the song goes, the little boy was told to come see the new born King. Everyone would be honoring him by bringing their finest gifts to lay before him.  Pa rum pum pum pum.

But the Little Drummer Boy was poor and didn’t have any gifts fit for a king. What he could do though is play his drum. Pa rum pum pum pum.

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum, on my drum?”

So the little boy began to play the very best he had ever played. Mary and the animals liked it, but the greatest gift was when the King smiled at him. Pa rum pum pum pum.

The Little Drummer Boy offered all that he could to the king. We’ve heard this message: that no gift is too small and we should give what we can. It’s true as our giving has more to do with our heart than the actual gift. The boy got this. But I wonder if the little boy was so happy to play his drum because he understood something deeper… Me and my drum.

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  While not an exact verse out of the Bible, this statement encapsulates the whole of Scripture that in and through and to all things be the glory of God through Jesus. It is afterall why God sent Jesus into the world. Apart from Jesus’ life and death on our behalf we could not know the eternal, perfect love of God. To God be the Glory!

Along the same line and what started me down this thinking track this is what I read from Voskamp:

…the greatest gift we can give our great God is to let His love make us glad.”

And so it seems, what Jesus wants from us is not our good works, our good behavior, our good church attendance, our  good witness, our good efforts to be a good Christian, but for us to be made glad by what he offers us!

Now hear me – those things I just threw out are good things, but again it’s the heart behind our “goodness,” for goodness sakes! So I think we must always be asking and evaluating our true motives behind our goodness.

Is it to try to earn God’s favor? Is it to look good or feel better about ourselves? Is it out of guilt? Is it so we look better in someone else’s eyes?

Apart from his love driving us, our goodness may benefit others, make us look good/feel good, but is no “gift” to God.  What he wants is to see us made joy-filled, or “glad,” because of our salvation. In other words, when we are transformed by the benefits of knowing his grace and forgiveness, compassion and mercy, and the spirit at work within us our enjoyment of him will be evident by how we seek to live and love. Compelled by his love then, what we do will be a reflection of our desire to glorify and obey him. Not to get, but to give out of gratitude.

So what if instead of focusing on what we should or should not do to be a so-call “good” Christian, we simply focus on the babe in the manger: The King who came to a dark and broken world for self-absorbed, manipulative people, like us, so he could give us the greatest gift.

How twisted that we think we have anything to offer at all. But how beautiful when we “get” that instead of trying harder, we can simply relish in who he is for us. To God Be the Glory. Pa rum pum pum pum.

 

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Fa la la Blah Met with Advent Awe

Yesterday afternoon did not go at all how I had planned. Six hours off and on the phone with Apple Support and my old laptop has still not fully been restored to the Operating System it had been running on. Six hours. Six hours I had expected I would be decorating the house for Christmas with my daughter. An afternoon she had set aside for me turned into unmet expectations for both of us.

In fact over the past few days in our home we’ve had several episodes of unmet expectations that has left me feeling a little blah. (Anyone else experience unmet expectation over this Thanksgiving break!?) With my daughter home from college and the holidays here, feeling blah is not how I imagined me to be . But circumstances, relationships and unmet expectations can lead us to sing the blues. Though if you’ve read my posts long enough you know as I do that the real problem is never the circumstances, relationships or unmet expectations but a pointer to something deeper – a ruling heart idol. Exactly why my heart needed the gospel on this first Sunday of Advent (and every other day)!

In the tradition of Advent, at our church this morning, as in churches around the world, the Prophecy candle was lit after reading about the promised One to come. The One who has come.

During this season, we remember and celebrate his coming with anticipation because he came as our greatest gift. He came to make us whole. Apart from him we will never find the peace we long for. We turn to people and things to fill our soul holes and when they don’t meet our expectations we feel justified in our negative emotions, and empty. Fa la la blah. Funk easily settles on our soul and what we typically do is look for something else – someone else – to make it better. To make us okay.

I saw this tendency in myself this week – not that I tried to replace my people, but I did want to fix my people (as if they were the problem and infringement to my peace, comfort and joy). But it doesn’t work that way. Only complete peace, comfort and joy can be found in him. But I must first see my need and false worship for what it is. Unbelievably despite our sin, he loves to give away his holy perfection to make his people right.

As I ponder this reality – that he came to give himself completely to make me whole – and yet I act as if it wasn’t enough,  I am struck with Advent Awe.

His coming changed/changes everything… and that is the reality I want to live in. Expectation of his love, grace and mercy to go forth: To heal hearts. To fill soul holes. To clothe in righteousness. To offer forgiveness. To give life. To make all things right, even when nothing in this world seems right.

He came as the promised Messiah – the Savior of the world – just as the scriptures foretold. And when he did he left nothing undone so our hope and our promise remains in: It is finished.  

This Advent Season my prayer for myself and my family and for all of us is we would wait with expectation for Christ. For his love to come down and for grace to break through because this he promised. Fa la la la la.

Blah becomes AWE when I remember who he is: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace..” His promises to me and to the world never go unmet.

 

Do you enjoy reading this blog? Would you be interested in receiving my monthly newsletter? The December newsletter comes out next week! Submit your email in the two designated spots on the top right-hand side of the home page to receive all posts and newsletters in your inbox.