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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Our Christian Christmas Tree

Our Christian Christmas tree lights up my living room. It's our most prized possession.

Twenty years ago our church in Georgia began a Christmas service called, "The lighting of the tree." We had a 12 foot artificial tree decorated with thousands of tiny white lights. For over an hour families would take their turn to stand in the pulpit, read a scripture and place their ornament on the tree. Between readings we sang Christmas Carols. Every thing about the tree had to relate to scripture or to some Christian revelation. Every thing about the tree had a meaning.

The tree was green as in Evergreen and symbolized God's everlasting love for us.

The tiny white lights represented that "He is the light of the world."

The garland was made of white pearls and stood for "He is the pearl of great price."

Every ornament had be white to represent the purity of God and his desire for us to be pure. "We are to be his bride without stain or blemish."

There are lots of angels and plenty of musical instruments. We also included large snowflakes to represent that "He washes our sins whiter than snow."

Every year I watched as people publicly opened up about their spiritual struggles. It was a moving service that brought us all together and let us know that no matter what happens in life, God will be there.

When we moved to Ohio I purchased an artificial tree for our living room. We have carried on the tradition for 18 years now. It's my favorite tradition and my favorite decoration.

This picture shows Memaw getting ready to place her ornament on the tree.

Amie had the brilliant idea to place tags on the ornaments so we won't forget the beautiful sentiments and scriptures. I have almost all of them memorized. To me, this tree is a living journal of our pain, sorrow, journeys, victories, God's mercy and our love for him and each other.

For a while we kept the tree to ourselves. Every Christmas eve after a special supper, one by one we stood in front of the tree and explained our ornament. As more friends heard about the tree, more people wanted to participate. Before long "The Tree" party was changed to a date where others could participate. It became a special event.

This year Ken is directing three Christmas Eve services and won't be home until Christmas day. Once again the tree will be celebrated with just the family. I'm anxious to hear all the stories behind the ornaments this year. So much has happened and God has been so merciful.

Here's a few of my favorite ornaments.
The tree has 18 glass bulbs. Each bulb is engraved with a "J" and the year. The glass bulb represents the "Breath of God" as it entered Adam and each of us.

There are many icicles. The icicles stand for the "Sword of truth or the two-edged sword."

The angel in this picture was made by my sister-in-law and always reminds me how family can be angels in our times of need.

To the far left you can see part of the first ornament my children put on the tree in Georgia. I can still hear them say in unison, "Jesus asempted into the clouds." What they meant to say was ascended. We strung cotton balls on wire and shaped it into a cloud.

I love this ornament. It's not a reindeer, it's a deer. My Dad found it and quoted the scripture, "As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, Oh Lord." Psalms 42:1

On the right just below the deer you can see one of the icicles. And to the right of that a beautiful glass fish that stands for being "fishers of men." To the left is a huge rose that represents He is the "Rose of Sharon."



This ornament confused us. Scott Walt held up a pair of baby jogging shoes. We all wondered how he could possibly relate something so modern to scripture. Then he quoted, Hebrews 12:1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." With a twinkle in his eye Scott remarked, "If you've got to run you better have good shoes."

When Jamie was a junior in High school he was in a car accident. He took a matchbox car and beat it with a hammer. Then he painted it white. He talked about God's mercy and protection. I'm wondering if he will do the same with a motorcycle this year.

Below the car is one of the few items that isn't all white. It's a child sliding down a snowy hill on a sled. It represented the fact that sometimes, God just wants us to have some fun. There's also an ornament with a cow in a tub of bubbles. Since Ron grew up on the farm he laughed and said that he never washed a cow but the ornament made him laugh. He was glad that after God washed all our sins away - there was a reason to laugh and enjoy life again.

Ron's Dad is a Godly man. He loved working on his 360 acre farm in Iowa. Christmas morning Of 1993, Wayne Jansen passed away. That was an extremely difficult year. I have placed memorabilia of him all through our Christmas decorations.

Here is a tractor and an ear of corn. There are many scriptures relating our faith to the farmer, the seed and the sower. Wayne will receive a huge harvest of souls for the way he lived his life.



There have been many times the prayers of my parents have made my life better. Here is a handmade ornament of the two of them holding hands in prayer. My life is better because my parents were praying people. My family is stronger because Ron's parents and my parents are praying people.




There are three airplanes on the tree. Several times we talked about missionary work and how we need to go into all the world.

We also placed them on the tree because Dad was a missionary pilot to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. God preformed miracles on those trips. I love the story about him flying a dying woman out of a remote village. His plane was overweight and had to take off on a short ridge that dropped off the mountain. God not only helped him make the flight, he saved the woman's life.


This year when I put the compass ornament on the tree, I cried. I am asking God for direction in several areas of my life.

When Ken graduated from Evangel he made the compass to represent how he felt about the changes in his life. He wondered where God was leading him. This year I placed the baton (far left) close by. Not only is he working for a loving congregation, God is stretching and leading him into exciting territory.

The glass ornament above the compass is a well. Ron placed it on the tree to represent the woman at the well and the living water we all need. I hope each of you will receive the living water you need for the coming year.

The pictures and stories could go on for a long time, but let's just say that each ornament represents an event or insightful time in our lives. It stands as a tribute to the love of God and his tender mercy to all of us.

I'm looking forward to seeing the ornaments this year. We have such fun singing, talking and praying about each one. This tree is also the tree we gather around to read the Christmas story on Christmas morning.

During the season I try to find time to sit in the living room and ponder this tree. So many struggles and blessings are represented on this tree. It's a moving account of our lives. It never fails to bring me back to the reason for the season and to give me hope for the coming new year. I hope you will choose to have a tree of your own next year. One that will bless you and give you spiritual renewal.

Merry Christmas,

God loves you,


Debbie

1 comment:

angelwithu2 said...

Of all of the Christmas traditions in our family this Christian tree is my favorite! I got up this morning and Mom allowed me to put the last few ornaments on the tree and I found myself looking back at the ornaments from the past few years. Each ornament is usually chosen to represent a lesson learned, or a conflict encountered, or a revelation that the presenter has expierienced throughout that year. As I look at the ornaments on this tree I am reminded of the things that God has brought each of us through and how he has made himself real to each of us. It is a wonderful way to remeber God's love for us. I encourage everyone to start a tradition of some sort that will help you to remember that God cares for us and blesses us in many ways.