Episode 1. Packing Up the Christmas Tree
Funny this time of year, packing away the Christmas tree and the decorations. It’s as though we pack Christmas away for another year. But what if we tucked Christmas away in our hearts for the rest of the coming year. When I was a kid, one of the highlights of my year was in that […]
Funny this time of year, packing away the Christmas tree and the decorations. It’s as though we pack Christmas away for another year. But what if we tucked Christmas away in our hearts for the rest of the coming year.
When I was a kid, one of the highlights of my year was in that week before Christmas, when we used to set up the Christmas tree. Now I had European parents so we always had a real live fir-tree in the house. Dad and my sister and I, we’d go down to the local place, wherever it was, that was selling Christmas trees.
We’d pick one out, we’d bring it home in the car and set it up in a stand and decorate it. And there was this one decoration, a silver star that would always go on top. And we were always hanging lollies on the tree. I mean you’ve got to have lollies, that was the highlight.
But what goes up must come down and the week after Christmas was about removing all the decorations. Painstakingly taking each one-off the tree and taking the strings off and wrapping them and packing them safely back into an old suitcase that would go back in the closet for the next year. None of us liked that, it was a boring job. It was kind of a let down, it was.
Well Christmas, as a kid, is so much about anticipation and then opening presents and enjoying them and the family celebration. But there was something intensely pessimistic about packing Christmas away in a closet for the next year and taking the dead, brown, old tree out the back and chopping it up. Still today, in this week after Christmas, I get that feeling of a bit of a let down. It’s all over for another year.
It’s always a bit of a funny time, this week after Christmas isn’t it? I wonder how your Christmas was this year, I wonder how you’re feeling today. Christmas is over for yet another year. They slip by quickly. What’s it all about and was Christmas worth it?
It’s funny how seasonal we all are about Christmas. It’s as though you can only do Christmassy things in the weeks leading up to Christmas and then, magically on December 25th, at midnight, it all ends and the shutters come down. I mean you don’t hear anyone singing Christmas carols this week do you? You don’t see anyone putting up Christmas decorations this week, only pulling them down.
One time, a few years back, we had Christmas in July at our Church. Now, if you live in the southern hemisphere you understand that, well Christmas for us is really hot so it’s kind of fun to have Christmas in July and to cook a roast turkey and do all that sort of stuff in the middle of winter when it’s nice and cold and it makes sense.
So we had a Christmas service and all the things you do at Christmas. Decorations, a tree, we sang Christmas carols during the service in July. We had a big turkey dinner after the service. I have to tell you, it was a really, really weird feeling, singing Christmas carols in July and I wasn’t the only one. Everybody else at the service felt the same.
See, we are creatures of habit. Bit sad really. We kind of pack this Christmas thing away for another year, almost forgetting the whole message of Christmas. When really, what you and I need, in fact, we desperately need it. We need for this message of Christmas to shine a light in our hearts 365 days a year because Christmas is one of the most profound things that God ever did.
Just stop and think for a moment, how God interacted with His people before that first Christmas. You can read all about it, through the Old Testament. Because Israel was God’s chosen people, how did God interact with them? How did God speak with them? Through guys called prophets. People like Samuel and Jeremiah and Isaiah and all those other guys. People whom God specifically called out and spoke to and their roles were to go and speak to God’s people on His behalf.
Now they said some powerful things because they were speaking the Word of God, they really did, but by and large the people rejected them. Prophets were always calling God’s people back to Him. Why? Because He’s a control freak? No, no! Because He had and still has a mighty heart for an intimate relationship with His people.
You can read about it in the Old Testament, in the old book of Leviticus, chapter 26. God says:
I will place my dwelling place in your midst and I won’t abhor you and I will walk among you and I will be your God and you will be my people. For I am the Lord, your God who bought you out of the land of Egypt to be slaves no more. I have broken the bars of your yoke and I will make you walk upright.
And yet, over and over again, the people rejected Him. Jesus explained that in a parable that you can read in Matthew, chapter 21 beginning at verse 33. Jesus said:
Listen to another parable. There was a land owner who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a wine press in it and built a watch tower. He then leased it to tenants and went to live in another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenant to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another and stoned yet another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first time and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them saying, ‘They’ll respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
It’s exactly what you and I have done. We’ve rejected God, rejected His Word. God, all the time, is calling us home. We can run but we can’t hide. I mean, we can hear that calling in our hearts. But before Jesus, He just sent His prophets to speak His Word, a lot of words. You can read them all in the Old Testament, almost 1,000 pages of pretty small print. God is always talking; God is always calling us because in His great and mighty heart, He yearns for us.
So, what’s this got to do with Christmas? Just this in John chapter 1, verse 14. John writes:
And the word became flesh and lived among us and we’ve seen His glory. The glory as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
See, we’ve not just heard a bunch of words but we’ve seen His glory. We’ve seen God and that’s what you and I get out of Christmas – a God that we can see, a real live person that we can understand and lay hold of. That’s what God did when that little baby Jesus was born in that stable on that night.
And what we want to do is, we want to pack that message away for another year into some old suitcase with those Christmas decorations. “Ah well, we’ll pull out the Christmas carol CD next year, some time in December.”
But, well, what if we didn’t do that? What if the reality of God, dwelling with us in our midst, was something we treasured in our hearts every day of the year 24/7? What if the fact that God chose to become one of us was our assurance and our comfort all year round? Not just a bunch of words but the word that became flesh and dwelt among us so that we could see His glory. See, words are cheap. Flesh, on the other hand, well, God has skin again. Jesus flesh was nailed to a cross for you and me.
What if, instead of packing that away in some dusty old suitcase with the Christmas decorations for another year, what if instead, we stored it away in our hearts? Alive and fresh, through every day and every trial and every disappointment and every bump or kink in the road. God knows, God understands because the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
I reckon it’s meant to be Christmas all year round.