Why I switched trees

About 9 years ago my wife and I had an encounter with some new information that caused us to really evaluate how we celebrate God. Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while already know the faith journey I’ve been on.

Almost a month or so ago, I was sitting in my living room. My children, wife and I had just wrapped up a night of reading scripture, singing praises, and talking about what it meant for Jesus to be the light of the world. It was so good. Messy. But so good. Anyone who has tried to have quality devotion time with three little kids knows it can be an adventure to say the least. But it was so nice none the less. And the other cool part was, we had done the same thing the previous seven nights. And on this night, my wife snapped a really cool photo.

I used to lay by the Christmas tree and play with the ornaments. I loved decorating it even as a child. But I always wondered what it had to do with Jesus. I still think the Christmas tree is beautiful. But when my wife and I discovered the origins and meaning of the first Christmas trees, we just couldn’t look at them the same. I understand that a lot of people discount the origins of many of the Christmas traditions because it doesn’t mean the same to them. And honestly, that’s up to them. I don’t want to point fingers or ridicule anyone, I just want to share my journey with you.

For my wife and I, the Christmas tree’s origins (use in pagan idol worship and Baal worship) and the simple fact that it’s meaning and relevance towards Jesus was completely absent. To make any connection whatsoever would really be a figment of our imaginations. But there is a tree, given by God, used to honor and celebrate Him.

When the tabernacle was being instructed, God ordained a very important piece in the Golden Lamp stand. It would serve as the light that illuminated the entire tent of meeting and guided the priests towards the holy of holies. It was the representation of God’s own light. It also holds the significance as being the illustration of the tree of life seen in the garden and later in the new heaven and Earth. Gathering around this tree is far more than about celebrating the miracle for the Maccabees that Hanukkah is generally associated with. It’s about honoring the miracles of God. It’s about recognizing that He first brought light into the void. It’s about celebrating the entrance of the light of life entering the world in the form of a baby. It’s about commemorating the relationship between Jesus being the light of the world and Him passing on the mantle to His followers to be the same. My wife and I would never be able to say the same about a Christmas tree. In fact, the only mention of setting up trees and decorating them in the Bible is the instructions not to do so (Jeremiah 10).

So when it came down to it. My wife and I chose to switch trees because one was empty in meaning (at best) and the other was splendid and a beautiful picture of who Jesus is. One had suspect origins and the other came directly from God. One looks an awful lot like something we’re instructed not to do, and the other appears all throughout scripture as a picture of life and light. One could be lined with material gifts for us while the other points us to the ultimate gift. Because, in the grand scheme of things, we want to honor Him and point our children towards Him. And that’s why we chose to switch trees.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!


Are we living the promise?

How are Christians meant to live? No, I don’t mean the outward expression of a believer’s life. I am talking about the source of life…the inward life…the how to sort of living. I’ve been contemplating a series of verses lately, and really trying to pray through them because I really want to understand them. Here they are:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

1 John 4:9 NIV

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 NIV

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:4 ESV

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1:4 ESV

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 ESV

At first, my reaction is that these are speaking of eternal life. The reward or grace bestowed on all who cling to Christ and His perfection. I believe that this is very much the purpose behind each of these verses, and the central message of the Gospel. However, on a deeper look, there appears to be much more. You see, the life that comes from Jesus, is not simply a futuristic life of unimaginable joy, but a life in the here and now. I don’t know about you, but my life, at times, feels a long shot from eternal glory. But isn’t the life Jesus promised meant to be experienced here and now?

Paul said, in Galatians, that Christ is alive in him and his life has ceased as he knew it before his encounter with Him. There was a real change in him that altered how he lived life. Later in Colossians, Paul referred to Jesus as “our life”. Wait a minute. Is that how my life looks? Is my life defined by who Jesus is. Is His identity my identity? I can say that, but does my life show that. While Paul was flawed and broken, I truly believe that people could see Jesus in him. Can I say the same? Can you?

Jesus himself said that the life found in him was abundant. In my honestly, my life does not feel abundant at times. But that is certainly my own fault. I am out of focus if my life experience isn’t one of abundance. And I don’t think Jesus was in any way saying that our lives would be full of wealth and health and safety. His life wasn’t full of any of that. At nearly 40, I have already outlived the life of Jesus here on Earth. But how do they compare? Isn’t that the point? Live a life like Jesus? How much of my life has been wasted? How much am I wasting now with worldly concerns and seeking comfort? Am I alive in Jesus…here…now?

John said that Jesus came so we could live through Him. But what does that look like? To live through Jesus. It’s one thing to accept His atonement. To receive His forgiveness. To rejoice in mercy and grace. To look forward to eternity. But it’s more than all of those things. It’s everything we say and do. It’s our minds being radically transformed. Its our eyes viewing everything differently. It’s letting Jesus take control of everything. Not because we’ve become automatons, but because it is the only way we can truly live. It is the only way others will see Jesus alive in us. My job is not my life. My hobbies are not my life. My goals are not my life. My successes and failures are not my life. My family is not even my life. Jesus is my life. And therefore all that I am and all that I do is meant to for Him, to be done through Him, and to be experienced because of Him.

I can tell you, meditating on this has made me feel a whirlwind of emotions. I can both see how I fall so miserably short, and how so grateful I am that He is who He is and my life is ever changing because of Him. All I know is that I want more. I want His life to be my life. I want to be able to repeat the words of John and Paul, not because I am simply memorizing Bible verses, but because it defines who I am. Don’t you want that? Do you have that? Pray for me dear reader. And my prayers go out for all of you, that you too will experience that full, glory-revealing, joy-unshakable, transforming, amazing life through Jesus.

Peace and life in Christ brothers and sisters!