My family and I spent the day driving up to the mountains up North by the Mogollon Rim to pick out and cut down our family’s Christmas Evergreen tree. The process itself brought so much anticipation and suspenseful joy. Waiting to get the permit for weeks… Packing the snow gear into the jeep… The amazing moment of finally holding the official permit in our hands… And then the jubilation of 4-wheeling up the mountain and finding the perfect spot to pick out our perfect Christmas tree.
After another hour of speculating, comparing, deciding, we finally turned and all saw THE TREE we instantly agreed on. There were millions of trees in the forest but this one was special to us. We made a connection. A relationship. Right away we laughed at one crooked branch that looked like a smile. One twisted bunch of pine cones that shimmered like a star in the evergreens branches.
With snow at our feet and the sun on our backs, we bent down with a handsaw and each took turns sawing at the beautiful bark. On hands and knees, each of our kids sawed their hearts out and then dad and mom finished the cut, while everyone yelled, timber!
Ecstatic cheers and giggles erupted and then snowballs flew like confetti. We had cut our own Christmas tree!! Like a prized jewel we loaded it onto the top of the jeep and made sure it was safe and secure.
“Is she OK up there?!” The kids took turns asking as we drove the two hour ride from the mountain Mogollon rim back to the city. “Yes she’s doing great,” we replied, and we smiled as the whistle of the wind through her needles sang us our going home song.
We had been preparing a month for her arrival, and the empty tree stand isolated in the center of our living room now received its mate. The tree branches, uneven, yet inviting, burst forth in generosity stretching farther than expected into our living room corners.
The crooked branch giggled at us and we laughed back at it. It was a little odd looking yes, but the purity from nature: the imperfections, true reality, un-photo-shopped excellence provided us a reprieve from everything mass commercialized , genetically modified, artificially & intentionally altered.
We loved her. Imperfections and all.
We immediately gave her water and began decorating her with hand-made trinkets from over the years. We trusted her imperfect branches to hold our cherished family memories dangled from ribbon and decorated with lights.
“Ding dong!” The doorbell rang, and our neighbors rushed in from a day of shopping. We clamored to introduce them to our new family member, THE TREE.
“Ohhhhhh. It looks gooood.” Said their response but their faces seemed like, “that’s kind of a funny looking tree.”
After they left I sat there amazed that anyone couldn’t see the beauty in my tree. The 28 years it spend growing (we counted every ring on the trunk to date it as soon as we had cut it down) seemed like a personal blessing to us. The time we spend getting to know the tree in the forest and see where it started, and how far it had come. We knew of the imperfections and we loved it anyway. Not to mention how we cared for it for the long two hour drive back home earlier that same day. We had a relationship with this tree and it could never be understood at first glance.
I realized that as Christians at Christmas, we are like this tree.
Some might think that because we believe in God that we should be perfect. But I’m not. I have imperfections and weaknesses and branches that stick out too far. I might look odd to a number of people. I may stand out. And, just like that tree, where I stand today is a long journey away from where I started.
But I’m in a relationship.
I believe that as I spend time tending that relationship with God that he will continue to grow me, change me, and develop me.
Some days, we run the risk of cutting down and judging others at first glance by their imperfections.
But that is not the measure of our lives. At Christmas especially, many of us are waiting, expecting, looking for perfection from so much around us. We seek perfection from gifts, holidays, people, and even from God.
But I’m learning this year that I should never let my expectations of perfection cause me to miss out on appreciating reality.
As Christians, at Christmas and every day, we have an amazing opportunity to be our imperfect selves ~
To appreciate the spot we began, to recognize the parts about us that are imperfect and may need to be trimmed back, and to embrace the reality that where we stand today is not the same spot as where we started.
And to be thankful for the gift of being in a relationship with a loving God. Even though we are not perfect, we cannot be afraid to shine his light from our life.
We are given the responsibility of carrying God’s gift of love in our imperfect branches.
We are given the responsibility of carrying God’s gift of love in our imperfect branches and he gives us his gift of grace which makes us new every morning. Rooted in that relationship, during the Christmas season and every day of the year, we can continue to grow every day, just like the Christmas evergreen trees. Imperfect branches of progress illuminated by the perfect gift of loving grace.