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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trimming the Tree

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  …for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:6-7, 11b NIV
When my children were growing up I think that next to eating Christmas cookies trimming the tree was their favorite part of Christmas preparations. The Children loved decorating the tree. Not only was the tree pretty, the lights seemed magical and they both loved hanging all of their special ornaments on the tree. I believe for them, decorating the tree signaled the beginning of the Christmas holidays. As their excitement peaked, their spirits danced right out of their bodies into a room that was soon to be filled with their hyper activity! On the other hand, my husband put the tree in the stand and then escaped to TV and Christmas cookies. That always made me a little sad because I wanted decorating the tree to be a family activity.
The decorating of a beautiful tree and corralling two children high on Christmas cookie sugar (back then, I didn’t know that sugar made children fly off the walls) was my responsibility. The scene went a little like this. Before the tree was secured in the stand they wanted to know, “When can we put the lights on the tree?” Before the lights were completely in place they wanted to know, “When can we hang our ornaments on the branches?” Before all of the ornaments were hung they wanted to know, “When can we string the garland?” Before the garland was finished they wanted to know, “When  can we place the beautiful angel on the top of our tree?
In the meantime there was always tears and arguments as to who took whose spot on the tree for hanging their own special ornaments. My frustration always seemed to escalate and my patience wane as the evening progressed. All day long I had dreamed that trimming the tree would be a perfect Christmas card scene. You know those cards where the house is in perfect order, the fireplace is cozy, everyone is dressed in beautiful clothes, and there is a table with candles lit and hot chocolate and cookies waiting to be enjoyed by every member of the family. Can’t you just hear the Christmas carols playing in the background?
But in reality, with each impatient question and every tearful argument, my spirit would deflate and sink deeper into the depth of my heart. You might remember me saying before, my husband was watching TV. As a result of what I considered to be his lack of involvement and the children’s bad behavior I become very dissatisfied with the entire situation. On one particular occasion I shot up a prayer to God and said, “God, I can’t believe this, I really can’t believe this special evening has turned out this way!”
And then the Holy Spirit whispered the “God Lesson”! Contentment my dear daughter, contentment is what you need. Take joy in the fact that these children are just excited. They are only little once. Enjoy the moment. Paula, you shouldn’t even dream dreams that are reserved only for Christmas cards. Make your own Christmas photos.” As a result of the chiding of the  Holy Spirit I began to look around. Everyone was dressed in comfortable jeans, silly kids danced around to the sound of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, cookie crumbs were falling on the carpet, and hubby was cozy in his chair instead being an absentee father. God then seem to whisper, “Love, don’t forget the love!” Yes, love illuminated this scene into the perfect Christmas snapshot.
The Holy Spirit reminded me that Jesus is the reason for the season and that I must not forget to share that with the family. After the tree had been trimmed to semi-perfection, as a family we pulled out our nativity set. After the figures were placed inside the creche and the children had placed the baby Jesus between Joseph and Mary we talked about why we are trimming our tree on this very special holy night.
  1. Do you recall any Christmas experiences in the past that have left you feeling frustrated?
  2. How did you get past the frustration and disappointment of that experience?
  3. Are there any holiday expectations that perhaps you need to rethink?
Dear Jesus,
Christmas is such a special time of year. Forgive me when I feel frustration. Help me this year to practice contentment in all my holiday preparations. Jesus, when I wrap gifts I want to remember that you are my very special gift from the Father. When I decorate the tree, help me to remember that you became the sacrificial lamb who died on a tree for my sin. As I drive to and from my responsibilities, I want to enjoy the message of the carols that are being sung on my favorite radio station during this beautiful Christmas season. Help me take time to feel your peace every morning as I bow in prayer and reflect on this very special time of year. As I bake cookies for my family help me to remember that I must taste of your goodness everyday because if I do I will see that you are indeed sweet and good. When I write Christmas cards to friends and family I want to whisper a prayer that you will bless them in the coming year and pray for any special needs they may be experiencing. Jesus, help me to love my family and be content with my life stage. Help me to delight in every memory and snap priceless photos to place in the scrapbook of my heart.
In your name I pray. Amen.