It was time to take the tree down. A job I always do with a bit of a sigh. Let’s be honest a Christmas tree is so much more fun to put up! Anticipating Christmas and all the fun to come. After the holidays, after all the fun has folded and gone home . . . it is just a dreary task.
Determined, I go to the garage, retrieve the cold storage container, grab the package of tissue and start. Plucking the first bit of whimsy off the tree and wrapping it in the crisp white paper I remember, fondly, picking it up at a craft show in Florida. The next ornament? A gift from my sister-in-law, Rachel. Then the little black taxi-cab from London, the hand- blown ball from Germany and the memory of standing, amazed, watching crafts-men work as if it were 1537 and not centuries later. A beautiful wooden egg from Budapest, and the most recent foreign acquisition? A ‘waddle-waddle’, more commonly known as a penguin, from South Africa.
Unexpectedly my heart is flooded with praise. I am teary and humbled as I thank God, out-loud, with hands busily removing various bits of our life, our travels, our ministry, our children’s lives – all intertwined on a tree. How GOOD God has been to me. How can I help but praise Him? To remember when I came to points in my life where I wondered what was next – He always directed our path. When I wondered how we would ever make ends meet – He always provided. When I was weary raising children and exhausted – God already knew exactly how He was going to grow them and use them for Himself. Off the ornaments come — Baby’s first ornaments, the mandatory Green Bay Packer ornament, tacky ornaments, gorgeous ornaments all blended together to shout Merry Christmas into our lives.
This has been an interesting holiday season. God has gripped my heart over and over with the reality of the meaning of Emmanuel. God with us. The very thought that our great God would humble Himself to be entrapped in a young girl’s womb stuns me. So often I have looked at girls as we read their pregnancy test at Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center and say tenderly “God is knitting your baby, right now, inside of you.” Taking that opportunity to share the truth of Psalm 139. What was it like to knit His only Son as a wee baby inside Mary’s womb? God with us. God in the hard stuff, the sad stuff, the fun stuff, the tender, the confusing, the incredible. God with us every day, every moment.
That is what fills my heart as I put Christmas away this year. Worship and praise for an incredible Savior. God with us. God on each branch, each memory, wrapped in the tissue of my heart – stored, and savored. God with us who one day stretched out His arms and willingly surrendered to be nailed to the cross in my place, for my selfishness, angst, anger, dishonesty, hatred, meanness … that is my God with us. Emmanuel. And so I worship Him. His Calvary Tree intertwines with my tree, my ornaments, my memories. My heart. My life. God with us.