“Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,/ And usher in the morning./ Ye shepherds shrink not with afright,/ The day of grace is dawning./ This child though weak in infancy,/ Our confidence and joy shall be,/ The pow’r of Satan breaking,/ Our peace with God now making.”- Lutheran Service Book 378, v. 1
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”- Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)
On December 23, 1951, at the age of 5 months and 22 days, I celebrated my first Christmas. Typically, my dad selected the ideal tree and maneuvered it into the tree stand. Perfectly straight – no bends. Next, dad strung the lights, placed the ornaments, and added the icicles. Finally, he gently laid the fragile tinsel on the branches. Lots of it! A sparkling work of art.
I’m sure the lights and tinsel piqued my curiosity. Certainly, since I loved books and stories, mom told me about the baby Jesus, born in a manger.
In Chapter 11 (“Good-bye to the Bents”) of Because of Bethlehem, Max Lucado notes that very few people complete an Ironman triathlon or qualify as Rhodes Scholars. Yet fewer still possess the ability to position a Christmas tree so it doesn’t lean. Thus, the desire to avoid this tragedy of the holiday season serves to form a common bond.
However, Max underscores, God faces this situation on a continual basis. Because all of us have our share of unattractive bents. And what parents do for a tree, God does for you. Not only do they search for the right tree, they know exactly where to place the tree. God positions you to break forth, like the beauteous morning light. Pastor Lucado explains:
“[God] knows just the place where you’ll be placed. He has a barren living room in desperate need of warmth and joy. A corner of the world needs some color. He selected you with that place in mind. . . . God made you on purpose with a purpose. He interwove calendar and character, circumstance and personality to create the right person for the right corner of the world, and then he paid the price to take you home.”
Like Christmas trees on a lot, we need to be found and taken home. And we receive this Christmas promise: we have a Savior named Jesus. Furthermore, somewhere on the timeline between the Tree of Knowledge in the garden and the Tree of Life in heaven, we find the Tree of Sacrifice near Jerusalem. If we associate Christmas trees with beauty and presents, surely the most wonderful Christmas tree = the rugged on on Golgotha.
Hence, in the manger we see God’s love for us. Through the cross Jesus saves us. But, until we get to heaven, God calls us to break forth. Although most people crown their trees with an angel or a star, God uses both. He sends His angels to protects us and His Word as a guiding star. Max concludes with these words of hope:
“Then [God] surrounds us with his grace. We become the depot, the distribution point of God’s gifts. He wants no one to leave our presence empty-handed. Some people find the gift of salvation. For others the gifts are smaller: a kind word, a good deed. But all are gifts from God. Our task is to stand tall in his love, secure in our place, sparkling in kindness, surrounded by his goodness, freely giving to all who come our way. You, me, and the Christmas tree. Picked, purchased, and pruned. Trust God’s work. You’re going to look much better without the bents.”