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After a long hiatus, another “Terrible Parable” from Carolyn Houghton August 1, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Terrible Parables.


The Parable of the Jesus Tree


OLD DIARY ENTRY: December 19, 1965: I put up the Christmas tree today and Jeff, who is the ripe old age of “almost three,” put on the unbreakable ornaments. Puffed up with pride at his own importance, he diligently decorated, carefully choosing where each ornament should be placed. Finally he announced that he was finished. And he had done a magnificent job…hanging eleven ornaments on one branch, five on the branch right next to it, and a couple clustered closely in the vicinity. The rest of the tree was totally bare.

Those were fun Christmases–when my three kids were small and so excited about everything! I enjoyed watching them decorate the tree and make HUGE messes in the kitchen as they each took possession of one-third of the cookie dough to make the UGLIEST decorated Christmas sugar cookies you can ever imagine! The memories of the happy chattering that went on around that kitchen table as they rolled and re-rolled cookie dough, ate more cookie dough than they baked, and left trails of colored sugar across the floor bring nostalgic smiles these many years later. (Is there ANYTHING worse than stepping on spilled sugar?)

Now, however, if it weren’t for having a husband that really, REALLY wants a tree put up, I’d probably just “Bah, Humbug!” the whole decorating-the-tree routine. These days it seems to take EFFORT to drag out the decorations. And don’t you find it annoying to find stray pine needles in weird places the next July? Well, I do. Besides…Christmas has gotten so utterly COMMERCIAL these days. We’re supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ and I often feel the crowd of commercialism has elbowed Christ right out of view at His own birthday party.

In 1995 I was even grumpier than usual because we had opened a business. Opening the business didn’t make me grumpy, but Doug’s confronting me with a hard fact of business sure did! Hard fact: we HAD to decorate our huge showroom for the season. I knew I’d lose, but I fought ‘im to the BITTER end! “Do we HAVE to have a tree? Decorate ALL these windows? You GOTTA be kidding!!” I whined. Of course, I lost all the battles and found myself buying decorations that I really, REALLY didn’t want to put up.

I was scowling at some particularly gaudy decorations in Aisle 12 of K-Mart when, for some reason, my mind wandered off on one of its tangents and I began to “see” Christmas trees as a picture of Christ and His true Church. Oh, I hear you,– “She’s really lost it THIS time!!” (Well, you’re right, so you purists out there are gonna have to give me some leeway in this analogy, okay? It’s HARD to turn one pine tree into a whole Church!)

But look at it sorta this way: a Christmas tree grows from one tiny seed that produces a single spike that points straight up–ignored and insignificant except in the eyes of the person who planted that seed and who now tends that new growth. But, given time, that single spike grows into a beautiful pine that we bring into our home at Christmas and make absolutely beautiful with lights and evenly-spaced ornaments (since we don’t have Jeff’s assistance these days!).

Jesus, in His stint here on earth as God/Man grew from a single seed of a woman. He’s that single “spike” that points us “straight up” to God. He, too, was ignored and the world considered Him insignificant. Only a few–including Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men, and good old Simeon–truly understood and believed that Jesus was the Messiah. My mind’s eye sees them as the first tiny branches in the mighty “pine” of Christ’s Church.

For the next thirty years of Jesus’s life no one else knew, or cared, who He was. “…[E]ven His brothers did not believe in Him.” (John 7:5) and ridiculed Him when He began to announce His mission on this grungy earth. Jesus’s brothers knew Him intimately but apparently saw nothing significant about Him the whole thirty years they lived together in the same household. I couldn’t believe they were so dumb!! So, since this is MY analogy and MY parable, I saw their branches as somewhat insignificant too.

THEN I realized that I grew up believing in God and knew that Christ died on the cross, but was twenty-eight before I understood that His death and resurrection provided my salvation. It was only then that I first saw something really significant about Him and became a “branch.” So… humbled, I upgraded His brothers’ and sisters’ branches to prominent branches in His “pine tree.” The “Jesus Tree” has been growing new branches for nearly 2000 years now and the current number of branches is beyond my tiny mind’s ability to count.

The lights on Christmas trees now remind me that Christ said of Himself, “I have come as a light into the world that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” John 12:4. He gives us His spiritual light and, in return, asks Christians to “Let YOUR light so shine before men…” Matt. 5:15. I wonder…does my branch have any lights on it that are shining for Him? Or are all my bulbs burned out so that my life shows forth none of His light for others to see?

And then there are the ornaments that remind me that God wants Christians’ lives “adorned…with good works.” I Tim. 2:10. I’m so BAD at being good! I fear several of my ornaments have fallen off my branch and lay shattered on the ground. I’m certainly glad that living branches don’t fall out of trees, or I’d surely lose my salvation as well as make a mess of some of my “good works.”

As you gaze at your Christmas tree this year, I hope you’ll see more than branches with beautiful ornaments and twinkling lights. And may the most beautiful branch on your tree represent how God and the world sees you.

Merry Christmas!!



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