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Our Christmas tree speaks


After attending Christmas at Northwood we were anxious to put up our new nine foot slim line Christmas tree. It may be somewhat of a metaphorical display, you know, the slim line part. What we didn't expect was the way our new tree spoke to us as we decorated it. You see, most of the ornaments on our tree were given to us by wonderful people who have imprinted our lives over the past forty-two years. Rather than the tedium of getting it done on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it was a dialogue wth the past. We both learned that our new Christmas tree speaks.

With a strong future orientation in my top ten personal strengths, listening to the past isn't one of the graces I handle all that well. Yes, there's an occasional glance in the rear-view mirror to help navigate where I'm going. But, in this current transition, I'm learning that there's health in listening to the past. What a blessed afternoon, listen to our Christmas tree speak. How on point were the words it spoke!

Elizabeth't first handmade ornament, Brian's bug, others they made in childhood spoke words of affirmation and joy, memories of our wonderful past. Kole Helvie cross-stitched a Santa Clause in December 1982, a treasured time of ministry and great friendships. Mary, Phil, Candie, and Charlie Charping gave us a new handmade nativity ornament every year when we lived in Greenville. As we carefully situated each wonderful ornament we rehearsed the joys and blessings of our life and ministry. Almost every ornament speaks of a person, event, or time that is momentous in our epoch. It was like each one was a spiritual marker of significant realities in our journey. The hand knitted snow flakes, dozens of them, made by sweet Annie May back at Woodland Baptist Church, circa 1980, told us about our earliest days in ministry. The Girlfriends Christmas ball from Northwood Baptist spoke to us about more recent relationships. For several hours that tree spoke words of blessing and affirmation.

There are a few dark memories in our notches of time too. Every journey has some detours and road damage, pot-holes, missed turns, wrong routes taken, and other traveling hazards. These ornaments spoke of precious people who had died, tragic circumtances, broken relationships, misunderstandings, and all the debris we humans can leave in the wake of our road drama. It's the stuff of living in a real world again. Our tree told us about all of them too.

Even now, as we prepare once again to celebrate the Incarnation, some of us are in dark times. Life is harsh. As the holiday veneer shines and glitters, there's trouble back there behind the facade. Many truly dear people are agonizing over important decisions while others are suffering the darkness of broken dreams, relationships torn apart, expectations not met, finaincial ruin, health issues, or family distress. Many ministry brothers and sisters are dealing with doubts about their calling, questons about their performance, termination of a position, or other significant mission questions. Trouble doesn't go on sabbatical during the holidays.

Take a moment and let your Christmas tree speak, or your wedding pictures, or the notes in the margins of your Bible, or your school yearbook, or the church directory, or that drawer full of pictures. Rehearse the spiritual markers in your life and remember the faithfulness of the one who called you and works in your life. You see, even as our Christmas tree spoke so clearly about the past, it spoke most distinctly about him, the one who was there at every turn. Paul reminded us, "...he who calls you is faithful..." (1 Thess. 5:24, ESV).

Sometimes we have to let even a Christmas tree speak to us about it!


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