The Other Half of the TreeDec 24, 2019
"Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world."
I have a friend who ordered a high-end, fake tree for Christmas this year. It was supposed to be their “last tree.” I’m talking a really nice tree that carries a lifetime guarantee. A show stopper that makes people gawk when they see it. The oversized box finally came to their front door, but when they opened it the entire top of the tree was missing. Only the bottom half of the pricey tree was delivered. Hmmm…what do you do with half a Christmas tree?
That half tree got me thinking. In a similar fashion, many times we celebrate Christmas with half a meaning. Most of us celebrate the top half, to be honest. Let me explain.
Christmas is about spectacular lights, surprising gifts, rich traditions, favorite foods, seeing family and old friends, going to parties and getting a few days off from work. (Although that’s the case for fewer and fewer of us.) And a lot of shopping. As Dave Barry said, “Once again, we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.”
But the full meaning of Christmas is fastened to a non-fiction narrative about one man’s birth, life, and death. Without connecting to that part of the Christmas narrative, the concepts of peace, joy, love, and hope will always be cut in half … or worse, they’ll be the missing half.
One theologian said it this way, “If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: ‘God with us.’ We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”
Jesus came as a baby, grew into a man and died as a Savior. Celebrating the holidays without that story anchored to your soul means the entire meaning of the holiday will never unfold or be unwrapped for you. You’ve got half a tree that can’t stand on its own.
So how can you anchor that story to your soul this Christmas season? Here are two ideas:
- Read the story. Instead of watching another Christmas movie for the hundredth time, grab a Bible and read what is actually recounted there. Get up early, plug in the Christmas lights, and read the story. It’s in the first two chapters of the books of Matthew and Luke and will probably take you 20-30 minutes to read all of it.
- Practice Advent. Advent is the name of a season of preparation for Christmas that the church has practiced for fifteen centuries. It emphasizes the ideas of hope, joy, peace, and love. Drop anchor on those things in the days before Christmas. Consider how God gives them and how we can offer them to others in return. Here's a free guide offered by a Dallas church with readings and kids’ activities. It started at the beginning of December, but go ahead and jump in now.
You and I can never truly enjoy the full depth and breadth of Christmas until we look into the Father’s face, acknowledge His Christmas gift, and offer Him a genuine “thank You.”
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