The tree outside the library window is standing tall in the cold static air. Barren branches, exposed to the weather. Branches hanging, empty, yet containing life inside of them. Branches free of any weight. Free to move in the wind or to remain still in the stale air. Arching over each other like a canopy.
Like that tree, I sat barren for years. Not allowing the life inside of me to spill out. Selfishly holding onto the energy, activity, life created in me. Stifling my God-given nature, and fueling my self-centered nature.
And like those protective canopying branches, I tried in vain to protect myself. No outward, life giving protection, no inward strength.
Then there’s the evergreen tree. Showing it’s beauty all year. Holding on to it’s covering, it’s shield from the storms. Remaining faithful in it’s creation. Not changing with the seasons.
Our Christmas tree, sitting in the middle of our front room, symbolizes that faithfulness. We go out and find the most beautiful tree each year. Stomping through puddles, and then hauling the tree home. From there we place the green tree in the stand, adorn it with decorations and lights, and then enjoy it’s beauty and wonder throughout the season.
This tree, this Christmas tree…this tree displayed to celebrate “Christ’s Mass”, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, in our home, reminding me to focus my heart on His birth. His coming to earth. The Father sacrificing His son by sending Jesus to us…to me.
Since allowing God’s truth into my heart about 20 years ago, each Christmas seems to hold a deeper meaning than the one before. I remember that first magical Christmas. Presents losing their importance and the Christmas Eve service becoming a highlight for my longing heart. Each year, the Lord reveals more of Himself and my heart becomes more and more connected to the impact of that Virgin birth in the stable.
What clouded my heart from fully celebrating Christmas all those years? What in me caused material items to come before the Father’s gift to me?
Sometimes it feels easier, less vulnerable to focus on the materialism this time of year, rather than face my need for a Savior. 20 years ago, I had to face my brokenness, my sin and shame, and realize my need. I had to face my inadequacy, my inability to do anything on my own about my situation.
Some of us are letting guilt and shame block our path from receiving His righteousness. The book of Romans explains that all of us have fallen short and we all require a Savior. None of us on our own are good enough. All righteousness, all goodness abiding in me is from the Lord.
That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus Christ came to this earth, born as a human child, to live a short while on the earth showing an example of living out love. And then ultimately dying so that His righteousness could live inside of me… Inside of you.
How can I meditate on this birth, this sending down, without thinking about another tree. The tree my Savior was nailed to. The heavy cross, made from trees.
The Father, sacrificing twice…sending His beloved son to earth. Leaving the glory of heaven to live on this sinful earth. And, then once again, sacrificing His son through death on the cross.
This sacrificial birth and death beg me to ask myself, what am I willing to sacrifice?
Like the leafy tree outside the window, letting go of it’s protection each fall, opening up to receive what nature has in store for it. Can I let go of some of the false protective barrier I hold on to and allow the Father to lead me in His plans? This coming year, can I release my plans and open up my heart to His plans, trusting in His protection, His goodness, His Faithfulness?
Can you sacrifice? Can you let go of your futile attempts to be good enough? Release your desire for perfection? Your to-do lists? Can you open up to the Lord’s plan for you? Open up to allow His righteousness to live within you?
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sacrificing your son through His life and death. May each of us be more open to you this coming year. May we lay down the barriers between us and allow more of You into our hearts. Amen.