• Tuesday, December 13th, 2016


By Gretchen

Every year we buy a real Christmas tree. We have our preferred tree lot and generally find our favorite tree at the very last moment the place is open – in the dark, extreme cold and preferably with intensely heavy snow or freezing rain falling. This year however, we went in the early evening. It was already dark, but there was nothing icky falling out of the sky and it was a balmy 45 degrees. Not only that, we fell in love with the very first tree we spotted! It was the right height, the correct width and beautifully shaped. We even got it home without it falling off the car. This was going to be a red-letter season!

Two days later, my husband and son brought the tree inside and secured it in a tree stand designated for the correct height of our Tannenbaum. I put the lights and garland on the tree, and the whole family had a grand time unwrapping ornaments and placing them care-fully on the tree. The end result was beautiful. It stood proud and gorgeous through our annual Christmas Party, and the next morning, it fell over.

The main concern when something like this happens is not the tree itself (it was born to endure the weather) and not the garland (it is soft and pliable), but the ornaments. I must admit we lost 2 or 3 glass ornaments that I can probably replace for next year. We also found items the kids had made when they were younger – broken, but glue-able. No one was hurt, not even the dogs, who still can’t figure out why there is a tree inside the house.

After the tree was upright again, my son spotted the remnants of a small glass nativity ornament in pieces. I looked and suddenly saw that the only piece that survived the crash intact was the baby Jesus. He had some rough edges and his manger was gone, but there he was.

There are myriad lessons we could extrapolate from this event, but the one that really hit me this year is that in church life, we have conflicts and disagreements.

We even outright fight with one another about the color of the new carpet in the sanctuary or the cut of the new drapes in the reception room/parlor. Not every moment of church life is peaceful and happy. In fact sometimes, it is anything but.

And sometimes, things come crashing down around us when something terrible happens in our church family – when we find out the pastor has been abusing women in the church, or the money runs out or someone is arrested for a terrible crime. The truth is that once in a while, the glorious edifice of the church, with its tall steeple and colorful windows and brilliant ornamentation, hides within it a congregation that is broken, whose life is crashing down around it.

One thing I know to be true, is that even when “the church” comes crashing down around us, Jesus always survives the destruction. Jesus exists beyond our mistakes and beyond other people’s mistakes.

Jesus is the thing that makes us who we are and Jesus is the one who will save us from everything that threatens us, even ourselves.

That is why we rejoice in this season and celebrate the birth and life of the one who loves us more than any other.

May your church’s Christmas and the New Year be filled with the Peace that comes from knowing Jesus survives, no matter what.

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