I carefully reach out, trying not to overstep my balance. Though skilled at many things, a step-ladder and I do not mix well.
Give me 7 or 8 steps up this wondrous invention and you will find me frozen like a character out of a scene from a scary movie. Not willing to take the courage needed to go up the next 5 steps required to reach the top of our 12 ft. Christmas tree, I find myself in a dilemma.
It had seemed like such a great idea when ordering this amazing tree!
I could see it holding the thousands of ornaments that lay waiting to be unwrapped. Okay, well maybe not thousands, but definitely a freakish amount of bulbs and ornaments collected throughout the years. Year after year, the green branches get overloaded and the tree seems to get lost in the decorations.
But not this year!
I stand motionless.
While choosing whether to go up or down, the idea now seems a bit crazy, being that most years I am the one who decorates the top of the tree. I guess I should have thought of that before leaping ahead with such ambition.
I “gracefully” remove myself from this quandary and hand over the bragging rights to my son. Without effort he manages to scale the tree without incident. Our tree is almost complete.
The lights glimmer as I spread handfuls of faux snow across its branches. Tree limbs and branches find themselves loaded with the stories of our life, collectively spanning the years that bring us to this exact moment. They all seemingly come together and “tug” on my heart as I recall each one.
I am always amazed at the light that fills our room each Christmas. The tree glistens and the glow coming from the corner of the room seems to illuminate the entire area. A warmth flows over me and I find myself feeling content.
Late at night after closing down the house, I find myself reflecting on the blessings God has bestowed on us this year. A calm spirit of gratefulness overcomes me and leads me into a private sort of worship. The house remains quiet and still.
I begin recounting the blessings and fortune of family and friends I have been given, the blessing of knowing God, of knowing His grace and mercy.
I begin to think of those who are lost, alone.
My heart becomes heavy as I think of those without God.
It is amazing to me how light penetrates the darkness.
It cuts through and divides.
To those in the darkness it offers hope and direction. God’s Word comes to life and I am reminded that He calls us to be the light in the darkness.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
I begin to examine my own heart, my own life.
“Do others see the hope of Jesus in me?”
“Does my life shine into the darkness and shout, “Jesus is why I have joy!?”
“Does the person who I proclaim to be and who I truly am match up and lead others to God?“
Each year these same questions seem to resonate with me as I click off the lights. Night after night, my thoughts are provoked. Uncannily, just as quickly as this celebration of Christmas is ushered in, it seems to be escorted out.
Funny, for as excited as I was to put up our tree, I find myself dreading the process of taking it down. Stepping down from the ladder, I hold the last ornament clenched tightly in my hand, watching carefully as I try not to lose my balance.
The joy and excitement of placing them on the tree was now replaced with the monumental task of removing them.
Piles of ornaments line the table. Once again it is time to put away these small treasures that have defined my life in one way or another. Ornaments from each vacation, cut out “Santa’s” made from my children’s hands, collections of school day art projects, along with clay gingerbread men lay ready to be wrapped and stored for another year.
The ornaments that glisten are gone.
The snow is swept away.
The light stands alone.
The journey of life is much like this process.
We build our lives adding memories, stories and excitement, sprinkling it with special moments that glitter, hoping that as we do we will sparkle and shine. Often we add ministry and good intentions, offerings and often sacrifice.
But just as my Christmas tree is stripped away, so too will all the add-on’s in my own life. Though they are good, and of worthy cause, when they are all removed, what will be left?
The light that stands beneath is strong enough to stand on its own.
It shines brightly.
It offers hope.
The light that lives within me is Jesus, the Christ. My redeemer.
It is His hope that illuminates my soul and that brings forth joy.
Without His love, His gift of forgiveness, I would be without hope, without light.
As my tree goes dark, I am left alone with my thoughts …
“Is my light an annual display that turns on and off with the season or is it something that shines everyday, leading the hopeless to hope?”
If Jesus is the true “reason for the season” then together let us continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, not only as we celebrate His birth, but also His life, death and resurrection.
I want my life to shout “Jesus is my hope!”
My purpose is clear.
I have been saved by the mighty hand of God not because I am worthy,
but because He was willing!
Salvation belongs to those who ask and believe.
Are you without hope?
Know that God loves you.
And if you just ask, you too can be a person with hope!
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life!