Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lord, Why the Tree?

In the Holland home, Christmas is the king of all holidays.
We celebrate the birth of our Savior with great fervor, relishing every moment of togetherness that the holiday brings. Great effort is taken to don the house with Christmas lights and to pick out the most beautiful Christmas tree.
Homemade hot chocolate is artfully crafted and Christmas music blares as we decorate our home.
My husband’s brother, known to our kids as Uncle Jon, or AKA “Mr. Christmas,” keeps the mood merry and bright by pretending to be characters from various Christmas movies.
As a family, we carefully unpack each ornament that commemorates a time in Holland family history. As we hang the ornaments, our hearts are warmed, fondly recalling special memories of Christmas past.
You can hear me reminding our kids, “Dad bought this one for me the year you were born.”
Or, “We bought this one the year we were married.”
Also, “Remember, Isaac? You made this one in Kindergarten!”
And, “Dad bought this pepper ornament for me because I like hot food.”
The lights are hung carefully on the tree and ribbon is affectionately draped from top to bottom. Then we snuggle up around our Holland tree and admire our work. Each night we read books or watch shows on an iPad in the same room as the Holland tree, just to be near it.
One year, however, we had what has now been dubbed the, “really weird Christmas.”
For starters, my husband, Andrew, spent the first ten days of December in Ethiopia. Not realizing the logistical repercussions of his extended absence, stress began to mount.
One day after my husband’s return from Africa, we had a specialist appointment for my youngest son, Ryan, to deal with his diabetes. But on the way out the door, Andrew’s back went out and he had to struggle with excruciating pain during the visit.
The specialist gave us a heartbreaking diagnosis and, after leaving the appointment, we headed to yet another doctor’s office to have my husband seen for his back pain. 
After hours spent at the doctor, I spent hours at the pharmacy attempting to work out difficulties with prescriptions for my husband and son. Each time I returned to my car to run another errand for them, I would cry over the disheartening news about my son.
Andrew was bedridden for a few days, and we had limited time to shop for Christmas presents. Also, both of us were scheduled to leave town in a few days for a speaking engagement in California. The pressure was on. We had only one good night left to shop for Christmas. 
We headed out to the stores and malls only to have our trip shortened by Andrew’s back pain. 
That night I went home frustrated at this “really weird Christmas.”
I sat down in front of our lovely Holland Christmas tree, hoping it would radiate some holiday magic. But I noticed something was wrong.  
Due to the chaotic Christmas season, the tree had not been watered properly. The Christmas cookie had finally crumbled.
Our beautiful tree, robust and full of Christmas memories past, was now withered and brown. 
The precious ornaments were falling off the drooping limbs and the lovely ribbon billowed to the floor. The tree could not sustain our decorations any longer. It could no longer hold the history of the Hollands or our dancing ribbon.
The tree had become a symbol of joy and hope, and it was dying.
I cried, “Lord, why the tree? Couldn’t you just let it live?”
John 1:4-5 (NIV) — In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
In the midst of disappointment, as our poor little tree withered, I was reminded of the true symbol of light and hope.
The darkness cannot overcome or Savior.
His Word speaks of the memories of His faithfulness. He lights up any room filled with darkness.  He, in and of himself, is full of life and sees my needs.
At times we hold onto and put our hope in the things of this world. When that symbol of hope slips through our hands, we might be tempted to say, “Lord, why the tree?”
Whatever your “tree” is, we all have something (or several things) that we look to in this world to give us hope and a sense of security. These symbols are ultimately temporal and inevitably they will slip away from us and die.
In that moment, we need to remember that we serve a God who sees, hears, moves and listens. 
He is eternal. He is light. He is our hope for tomorrow.

He shines brightest in the darkness.