Last year, our family made a pilgrimage to a Christmas tree farm outside Austin to cut down a tree.
This was our first time attempting this tradition, and traipsing around a well-organized forest to find a tree all six of us could agree on was more challenging than I expected. We chose a tree with a trunk made of granite. The tree farm provided saws, but even with four man-sized, strong humans taking turns, we struggled to sever our tree’s connection to its roots.
That tree put up a good fight, which I can respect.
After downing the tree, we had to mark it with a tag, drag it to a pick-up spot, load it on a trailer, and then hike back to the barn/hot cocoa stand/check-out, where we waited for half an hour while the tractor picked up a full load of trees before returning.
Then, the boys carried the tree to our car. Morgan and I used bungee cords and rope to secure the tree to the roof of our car while the sky began to rain down on us, of course. Once we tied the last knot, we crossed our fingers and drove the sixty miles home with our eyes looking back regularly to make sure we didn’t litter the highway with our Christmas bounty.
I asked my kids if they wanted to cut down a tree again this year. I thought of that tree’s resilience when one of my son’s shrugged and said:
“I don’t know. It seems like a lot of work.”
He wasn’t wrong.
At first, I wanted to explain to this almost-man that everything good and fun requires a lot of work. I considered demanding credit for all Morgan and I do to make Christmas happen: the shopping and wrapping, the baking of our precious cinnamon rolls for the homeless, the festive meals, all the decorating.
But then I remembered how not to be a jerk, and I just nodded my head and assented that, yes, cutting down a live tree is a lot of work.
A few days later, I mulled the Christmas story over in my mind.
I thought of the shepherds, chilling on that hill, going about their normal life, and the way a million angels sprung Christmas on them all of a sudden.
Maybe, I thought, Christmas doesn’t have to be so much work.
We decided to pull out our old, battered fake tree. Since it’s way less work to just use what you already own, we carried the sad tree inside and strung lights on it. I opened the boxes of ornaments and let the kids make it pretty.
A few days later, Morgan mentioned some upcoming Christmas parties. I realized I didn’t have anything festive to wear. I shopped around and didn’t find anything I loved. Instead of buying a fabulous new Christmas dress, I decided to wear my LBD (shocker, right?) and just enjoy the party.
This Christmas, the themes are “Come As You Are” and “Play Hard to Get.”
Maybe it sounds bananas, but I want to believe God is like a mom and dad who will drive for an hour, chop down a bushy tree, secure it to their car, and bring it home so I can smell fresh pine and admire the lights.
Actually, I take that back. I want more than that this year. I want God’s goodness to hike into the forest and find me there, waiting on the hill, stubbornly holding the ground he planted me in. When God takes me home and strings me with his bright light, I will know something I didn’t know when I was shredding it to make Christmas happen.
I will know what the shepherds knew. I will know what Mary treasured in her heart. I will know that God is able to shock the world with his love in awe-inspiring and terrifying ways.
If you need an invitation to do the same, consider the passage from Luke 2:8-12 as your opportunity to join me and the shepherds. Come as you are. Play hard to get. God’s got this whole thing worked out.
Happy Christmas, friends.