I have a bit of a funny story to share. Earlier in December as we were decorating for Christmas, I was talking with Maddie about Christmas traditions and how we should start some new ones now that we are here. Out of curiosity, I asked which of the traditions we had that she remembered the most (or something like that).
“What do you mean? We dont’ HAVE any Christmas traditions.”
You could have hit me over the head with a 2×4. We have a ton! Small traditions, sure, but still there are things we do every year. Like “Ornament Day”, coined by Maia, the day after Thanksgiving when the tree goes up and at least the lights go on, if not decorations too. Christmas baking. Advent calendars to count down in December. Dances with Jon to our favorite Amy Grant Christmas songs. Tacky light tours (although out here in Colorado the lights and decorations really are not that tacky so… that one might have to die). Then there are my cousin’s famous caramel rolls Christmas morning, and the new tradition we started last year: Chinese food on Christmas day, in honor of Jon’s traditions growing up Jewish (since those were the two ethnic groups that didn’t celebrate Christmas in his town).
And we can’t forget the reading of the book “The Three Trees”, a traditional folktale retold by Angela Ellwell Hunt.
Although I always misplace it, and have probably purchased a few copies over the years as a result, at some point we all gather around the Christmas tree and get comfy and one of us reads the story. The story is about three trees that sit together on a hilltop. They talk and dream about one day what they will do when they are grown up. One of them dreams about being a treasure chest to hold great treasure, the other, a mighty sailing vessel for a king. The third tree says he never wants to leave the hill, but instead stay there so that he can poing people to God.
One day, the three trees are chopped down. The first two are made into a feeding trough and a plain sailing boat. The third is left in the woodpile. Yet each in turn are used to do the very thing they dreamed about doing, just in ways they never expected: a feeding trough ends up holding the treasure of God come to earth. A plain sailing boat holds Jesus and his disciples as they are on rough waters, yet realizes he holds a King when Jesus calms the storm. The third… well, he becomes part of the cross.
The reason I love this story so much is because it’s the story of our lives in many ways, isn’t it? We may have great dreams when we are young, ones that may never turn out the way we expected. We may feel ordinary, plain, or left over in the woodpile. Yet that isn’t how God sees us.
You life, my life – we are like those trees.
Everyday ordinary people, yet carrying a great treasure in our lives. We all have hope to give, light to shine into the darkness of other peoples lives. We all can sit in the woodpile and speak to those who are not doing well, reminding them this is not all they were made for.
The hard part of the story that we adults get, and kids don’t, is that after the trees were cut down, they were chipped away at, bent, cut more, nailed together, and smoothed over…. which in some ways is what life does to us, doesn’t it? Yet this story is a reminder that not only in spite of but because of those things, the treasure of God we have found sometimes is more visible, more touchable.
Whether this Christmas season is a difficult one for you, or if it’s filled with joy and laughter – remember you are NEVER without purpose. You, my friend, are crafted and a beautiful piece of woodwork being carved. Your faith is not in vain, you carry the light of the world in you, even though you may not be aware.
“For we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this power is not from us”.. 2 Cor 4:7
Let that truth be born in YOU this Christmas!