Scripture reading for today:
Heirs Of The Tree
Christmas was perhaps one of the more magical times of year when I was young. It was particularly special for my mom. Every year she would decorate the house inside & out like she was from the Griswold family. But when it came to setting up the tree, it was a family tradition to do it together. Mom would sit on the couch sorting through the decorations and one by one hand them to my stepdad and I while we found the perfect open branch to place them on, and there weren’t very many! Afterwards, she would take her guitar out and we would sing Christmas carols in the living room as though Jesus was right there with us.
April 23rd of 1994 would change all that as my mother and I would be in a bad car wreck resulting in her death and me being left an incomplete quadriplegic. Over the next few years, Christmas just wasn’t the same.
I knew that life was not always fig leaves & mistletoe but, seeing the tree with all its decorations just seemed incomplete without mom passing out the decorations. The beauty of the Advent season seemed tarnished and the spirit of Christmas diminished.
I imagine that as Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem they felt much the same after a long journey. Forced to make this difficult trip to please the Roman census, experiencing the pains of pregnancy while being so far from family and not sure if they would ever see them again once they returned, and arriving only to be shown to the animals stable with all its filth and lack of human dignity; the world seemed lacking for any sense of the grandeur promised by God only months ago.
Is this the world we are to bring our child into? What kind of father can I be if I can’t even bring my child into this world through the comforts of my family’s embrace? How can I be a loving mother to my baby while laying him in the feeding trough of these animals? I suppose the questions were unceasing.
God has a remarkable sense of vision when we are willing to see outside of our own states of world expectations. His ever-faithful endurance to see beauty and adoration transcends the ugliness of this world so an animal stable becomes the doorway to heaven, a feeding trough becomes a throne to life, and the welcoming of strangers becomes the embrace of family.
It has been many years since my mother’s passing and while she is still deeply missed, I have found a renewed sense of greatness in her legacy of decorating the tree. While Advent finds us decorating our homes and putting ornaments on open branches, it can also be a calling to incarnate and bring beauty and adoration to the whole of life. As Alan Hirsch and Mark Nelson articulate, “…it is an invitation to live a life that adorns the ways of God with mind-blowing beauty, not as a means to earn the love of God, but in response to the love of God.”1
Bringing splendour into our world is no easy task. There are many ways which we might wish we could do it all at once; instant justice for the oppressed, healing for the sick, empathy and compassion for those who are lonely or dealing with loss, restoration for those wracked with burdens and enslavements they were never meant to take up. But if we simply take each day, moment for moment, and seek to bring one element of grandeur to those in our life, magnificence will reveal itself. Share a kind word with someone, buy them lunch while listening to their story, visit a complete stranger in hospital, or shovel your neighbour’s walk before knocking on their door with a Christmas gift basket.
You don’t have to do it alone either. Plan a neighbourhood gift basket party where you and some neighbours get together and make surprise baskets for those on the block. Then totally surprise them by delivering the baskets together. Plan a potluck for those who live alone in the community while inviting them to come to a games night. Get a group together to build snowmen all along the block while giving a prize to the most creative design.
It may seem odd to you, but one of the most subversive ways we might speak to a world that is filled with darkness and that which is not right is to exemplify and cast light upon the brightness of beauty that lives amidst it. Small acts as they may be, they leave a legacy that grows into an unstoppable force. Restoration is the eternal love that bridges the cries from a baby within a manger to the glorious work of the Son of God raised upon a tree, a cross, with the promise of resurrection.
The beauty of this advent, this hope, is the inheritance of us all!
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