Christmas is my favorite time of the year-- as I’m sure is true with many of you. I love the music, the lights, the decorations, the special foods, all of the traditions, and most of all gathering with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord! One of our family’s favorite traditions for the pat 24 years has been putting up our 14-foot artificial Christmas tree on which we string over 3500 lights and hang up almost1000 ornaments. This year, however, our tradition almost came to a halt.
My husband Craig went to our Christmas closet where we store all of our many Christmas decorations. He had brought out the garland that I hang on our stairway, our numerous snowmen, countless angels, the village that goes on our mantel, and a plethora of nativities. He had brought up the first of two boxes of branches that we individually fluff each year and place into the main stem that goes into our Christmas tree stand. We started getting ready for the major ordeal of our tree decorating—a process which takes around 12-15 hours-- and begins with my fluffing each branch, involves his inserting the branches into the tree stem and then stringing lights on each individual branch, and then comes my favorite part-- hanging up of the ornaments. Each ornament holds a special meaning to me as they represent a friendship, a special family vacation or memory, or a past Christmas. As I hang each ornament—which come in an amazing variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and conditions, fragile ‘costly’ ones as well as treasured homemade ones from our four children, I am reminded that just as each ornament holds a special and unique place in my heart, every person God has created is uniquely made in His image and is precious to Him, regardless of their shape, size, color, or perceived worth to others.
I was getting ready to start fluffing branches and was anticipating the end result of our tree decorating when I looked around our family room and noticed that the tree stand that gets bolted into the two I-beams which altogether form the vital foundational support to the tree was missing. My husband and I both knew we couldn’t do anything else without the tree stand since the stem of the tree must first go into the stand before any of the branches can be inserted. Without branches, there could be no lights or ornaments. Everything else we had out was virtually useless without the tree stand as its solid foundation.
My husband immediately went back to search again in the closet, as well as every other possible place—and even seemingly impossible places that it could be because we knew we could not 'build' our tree without the stand. However, his search was unproductive. We were both befuddled because we always put everything in the same spot—the storage closet-- and everything else we needed for the tree and our Christmas decorations was there except the crucially important stand. Then my husband remembered that because of flooding in our basement last Christmas, we had to have everything in our basement moved out and put into a storage facility while the necessary reconstruction occurred. So he called the company that had moved everything out and stored our belongings. The head of the company said he didn’t hold out much hope but he would look for it and call us by day’s end. We didn’t hear back from him that day, and as the planner in the family I began considering our options.
Since our tree is very unique: very large, extremely heavy, and ‘old-fashioned’ in that individual branches are inserted into the stem, I knew it would be a challenge-- if not impossible-- to find another stand for it. I looked on Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and several other websites and saw nothing that even came close to the dimensions and weight of our stand. My husband reached out to where we had purchased it but they said they didn’t have any more trees like ours and hadn’t for many years. Trees I saw that appeared to be of the same quality as ours would cost over $2500—something we definitely didn’t have the money or desire to spend. I must admit that I was somewhat distraught thinking that this family tradition of ours was looking like it was coming to an end, particularly because our missionary daughter who is particularly enamored with traditions had just informed us that she was unexpectedly going to be able to come home for Christmas. I wanted this to be such a special Christmas for her, as we have no way of knowing the next time she’ll be home for the holidays.
Knowing we were without the foundational support for the tree and that nothing could be done without it, I said a prayer and asked the Lord to reveal to us where the stand could be or to miraculously give us an idea for a substitute stand.
Shortly thereafter my husband received a call from the man at the storage company who said that much to his surprise they had found our one-of-a kind tree stand! We were overjoyed! Our prayers were answered! Once he brought it to us, we began the process of our traditional tree erecting and decorating.
Out of this ‘almost loss’, came several great blessings:
· God reaffirmed my belief that He cares about that which concerns us, whether a ‘big’ or ‘small’ prayer concern; He is always faithful to hear the cries of His children!
· The Lord brought to my remembrance the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost or ‘prodigal’ son found in Luke 15. My husband and I were overjoyed that what was priceless to us and had been lost was now found, and I knew that the man who had our stand was also overjoyed to be a part of making us joyful that our Christmas tradition would continue. I was convicted to be more fervent in sharing the gospel with others, knowing that our joy in the return of our tree stand pales in comparison to the joy Jesus and all of heaven experiences when a lost soul discovers the truth of God’s great love and realizes that all of their ‘wellsprings’ are found in Him!
· I realized that just as our unique tree stand is the foundation piece to our tree and without it the branches, tree lights, and ornaments are truly meaningless, Jesus is the foundation of my life and without Him I am and can do nothing (John 15:5); my life is meaningless and built on sinking sand without Him as my foundational Rock. (Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 7:24-27)
· As I pondered the reality of Jesus as the foundation of my life, the Lord brought to my remembrance the Ephesians passage below, as well as the wonderful hymn ‘The Church’ that I remembered singing so often in the church of my childhood. Both the scripture and song reminded me that just as the individual branches on my tree are joined together by the same stem and same foundation to make my Christmas tree a thing of beauty, we as His church are all joined together ‘as one’, built upon Jesus as our foundation, a ‘holy temple in the Lord’, beautiful to Him. While we are in the process of ‘building’ our Christmas tree, an onlooker could see it and think we are foolish to think it will every amount to anything beautiful, but my husband and I know what the finished product will look like so we persevere till the last branch is added and the tree is ready, completely finished. Similarly, many may look as the hymn states with ‘scornful wonder’ at the Church that is ‘sore oppressed’, ‘by schisms rent asunder’, and ‘by heresies distressed’ and wonder how the Church can ever prevail, but Jesus is not discouraged because as the Alpha and Omega Who knows the ‘beginning and the end’, He knows that His Church is ‘altogether lovely’ (Song of Songs 4:7) and will be His radiant ‘Bride’ when the Father says He is ready for Him to return to take us home ‘on high’. What hope, courage, and peace we can have knowing one day as His beautiful, completed Bride we will rule and reign with Him ‘forever and ever’! So this Christmas, we can rejoice knowing that our sure foundation is Jesus and His Kingdom—and therefore ours as His ‘branches’ and His Bride-- shall ‘stand’ secure, and unlike even the best of Christmas traditions, will have no end!
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. Ephesians 2:19-21 ESV
The church's one Foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is His new creation,
by water and the Word;
from heav'n He came and sought her
to be His holy bride;
with His own blood He bought her,
and for her life He died.
Elect from ev'ry nation,
yet one o'er all the earth,
her charter of salvation,
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy Name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with ev'ry grace endued.
Tho' with a scornful wonder,
men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping,
their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.
The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord, to defend,
to guide, sustain, and cherish,
is with her to the end;
tho' there be those that hate her
and false sons in her pale,
against the foe or traitor
she ever shall prevail.
'Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace for evermore;
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union
with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with Thee.
Lyrics by Samuel John Stone, who lived from 1839-1900
Blog Written by Julie Van Gorp