Have you ever wondered why we decorate evergreen trees for Christmas? This was the question skipping through my mind as I sat staring at the glowing branches of my own tree two days after Christmas, trying to soak up the magic before dismantling the whole thing.
"How absurd," I thought to myself. "I have a tree in my living room. Why?" With a little research I found that there are as many stories about the origin of the Christmas tree as there are ways to decorate it. Several center around the thought that the evergreen branches represent the eternal nature of Christ and that the shape of the tree is like an arrow pointing to Heaven. As lovely as that is, it still doesn't explain why so many of us erect eight foot tall frasier firs inside our homes every year. It makes me chuckle. Just the thought of the things we do just because it's tradition. Cutting down a real, live tree and dragging it into my living room and then covering it with lights and ornaments? I laugh a little more every time I think about it. Dragging a fake tree out of storage and fluffing its branches seems even sillier, still.
As I sat entranced by Christmas lights, my thoughts flitted like a bird from one thing to the next. Why does the season seem so fleeting, even though the Christmas holiday starts to infiltrate everything as soon as Halloween is over? Why does it simultaneously feel like too much and yet, somehow, not enough? Why is everything on the menu filled with guilt and gluten? Why do people want to pretend that Christmas is not a religious holiday?...................................Why do people want to pretend that Christmas is not a religious holiday?
Pondering on this question, I am even more baffled than I was about the tree thing. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Hence the name Christ-mas. Yet some folks try like heck to eradicate Christ from Christmas. Why? You wouldn't have Christmas if it weren't for Christ. Denying that fact would be like another country adopting our celebration of July 4th and then insisting that it is politically incorrect to refer to it as Independence Day. What?!? Seriously?
Interestingly enough, I don't get angry about non-Christians celebrating Christmas. Instead, it makes me sad. They may revel in the glitz, the parties, the traditions, and the gifts, but they are missing out on the most important gift. The gift of salvation through the Son of God. And despite all the invitations they may receive through the holidays, they are refusing to open the greatest invitation. For that little baby Jesus was God's invitation to mankind to spend eternity with him, the God of the universe. Christ was sent to live a human life and die a sacrificial death in order for us to be redeemed. All we have to do is accept the invitation. God loves the people of this world so much that He didn't want to see a single one of us perish. So He invited us to come to him by sending his own son to pay for our sins. It seems a little absurd, doesn't it? That the God of everything wants a personal relationship with each of us. That the salvation of mankind would be born in a stable. Absurd, indeed. But glorious beyond our understanding. Beautiful, mysterious, miraculous. Glorious.
Now I see that tree a little differently. Maybe it really is a reflection of Christ. My heart swells and my eyes blur with tears as I take in the beauty, the glory, and the mystery of the absurd. I feel fully content as I take down my tree, piece by piece, remembering that the gift of Christ doesn't get packed away with the ornaments. No. That gift stays in my heart eternally, for I have accepted the invitation.
Praise God for the invitation of Christmas. Have you accepted it? The invitation still stands.