Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC
Saturday, December 11
By Dona Bunch, Director of Beacon of Hope
The Christmas War
Read 1 Peter 3:3-4
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
My father loved Christmas. He loved the music, the decorations, the gifts under the tree (although he didn’t personally care for gifts). He loved everything about the holiday. Yet every year, a few weeks before Christmas, my parents had the worse fight of the year.
It involved the tree. We never bought a tree; my father cut one down from somewhere on our land. It was always cedar, so it smelled wonderful, but cedar trees are rarely as symmetrical as fir or spruce trees. Each year, my mother would describe exactly what she wanted: not too tall, wide and fluffy, straight trunk, good top for holding the star, and so on. And every year, my father went out and cut the first cedar tree he saw. When he brought it in, the pandemonium began. My mother hit the roof. “It’s crooked as a dog’s leg!” my mother would say. “It’s too skinny, it’s half dead!” All of us kids, looking on big-eyed at the fracas, tended to agree with our mother. The argument was on, as mother pleaded for a different tree and my father, who usually had to go back to work, allowed that it was fine. Every year he said the same thing. “When you get all the decorations on, you won’t even notice. It will look great.” And out the door he went, leaving my mother to fume as she considered the crooked monstrosity before her. For a few days, the atmosphere was as cool as a Christmas snowfall.
But my father, who was rarely right on issues of design, turned out to be correct. Mother got out the lights and ornaments and icicles; all the kids picked out their favorites – balls with glitter, a pumpkin made in Bible school, a little stuffed cat – and we talked and laughed as we worked on turning the ugly little tree into a Christmas beauty. And it happened. Maybe it wasn’t going to be featured in Good Housekeeping, but it was beautiful to us because it signaled the start of the best season of all. The presents went under, the anticipation built, and the joy of the season was right there in our living room.
Jesus’ arrival has some similarities with our little tree. For 400 years the Israelites had been waiting for a savior. They were a ragged group of persecuted, disenfranchised people. They were waiting for a grand warrior king to defeat their persecutors. But God knew that wasn’t necessary. Jesus’ birth happened in a roughhewn manger in a humble stable. Yet when Jesus was born, the world was transformed forever. And despite the ragged surroundings, there was no more beautiful place on earth.
Lord, thank you for sending your son to change us from ordinary people with all our flaws and imperfections to inheritors of everlasting life. We praise you for seeing past the crooked and broken places in us and giving us the blessing of your love.