Twisting my body behind the furniture to plug in the lights, I never saw the tabletop tree go over the edge; I just felt the cord go taut in my hand. The crash was louder than I’d expected. Small wonder: Joseph and the Magi were caught in the swath of destruction and dragged to their deaths. Kneeling amidst the carnage, I surveyed the damage. My heart sank as I fingered the words “Our First Christmas, 1982” from a precious silver ornament. Ironically, the lights I’d managed to plug in shone steadily on, oblivious to the broken glass.
Before today, this tiny tree had seen only one Christmas- a long time ago, the year our daughter died. Kevin and I knew we owed our son a real holiday, but the best we could manage was a tree from a box three feet high. It was a far cry from the trophies we had cut from the forest. Still, the colored lights cast a steady glow that got us through that first season.
Lighter spirits and better years slowly renewed our celebrations. Jesse grew up, went off to college, but always came home in December. Whether he was home for a day or a month, we dragged out all our holiday kitsch and decked the halls with abandon. This past year brought yet another transition as he married the love of his life. Turns out her family celebrates Christmas, too. So we’re back to just decking the coffee table, but the lights shine steadily on.
Change. When is it ever more noticeable than at Christmas? Decorations and traditions are hauled out of storage and set like a table: a feast of the familiar for hungry hearts. Regardless of life’s twists and turns, or perhaps because of them, we find comfort and joy in our holiday traditions. Mercifully, we tend to forget the hassles and hurts of Christmases past and cherish the memories of happier times. This is a good thing until circumstances alter the agenda. Please pass us the turkey and icky green jello, but hold off on the platter of change.
Ironically, Christmas is all about change.
An obscure Jewish teenager screamed her way through childbirth in the middle of nowhere and God came squalling into the night. In His short thirty-three years, from the first human cry to His final “It is finished”* Jesus Christ redirected the course of human destiny by taking our sins to the grave. The beloved carol Joy to the World** says it well:
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings known
Far as the curse is found
What we now herald as glad tidings caught almost everyone off-guard. Even the Jews, long awaiting the Messiah foretold through prophecy, were expecting a military leader who would deliver them from Roman rule. Instead they got Jesus: an itinerate rabbi of uncertain parentage who claimed to be Emmanuel, God With Us. His offer to lighten their loads and forgive their sins met with rejection, scorn, and finally, execution. Even change for the better can upset the status quo and irritate people who just want their icky green jello the way it’s always been.
The good news is that His light shines steadily on. Killing Him only fulfilled His destiny, and gave us the greatest gift of all time. No more are we powerless to let our sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest our ground. He came and made His blessings known in our lives, and beyond: far as the curse is found.
Kevin came home from work to find half a nativity scene and the remnants of the “Our First Christmas” ornament in the trash. In unison, we sighed. We’ve seen loss before. Rather than replacing those who perished in the fall, we decided the scene is a lot like us- missing a few members, but faithful just the same. Together we’ll celebrate Christmas: the Light that shines steadily on.
© 2013 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Please visit my website at Friendship With Jesus
*John 19:30 NIV
** Joy To The World! Issac Watts/George F. Handel