Christmas is coming…my tree is getting fat?

 Sarah Howard

Sarah Howard

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very year, I run into the fact that I’m not content with my Christmas tree decorations. I don’t really care for the color red. It’s probably my least favorite color. But somehow, the majority of the ornaments on our tree have ended up being…red. So every year, I daydream about my ideal tree, and I kind of sneer at our current decorations. As weird as it sounds, I feel this…drive to have this ideal tree that I picture in my mind. It feels like I’ll be more happy, more content, when my tree is decorated the way I want it to be.

    This year, I was flipping through a magazine and I saw a picture of a wreath. Instantaneously, I knew that I had found my muse for our tree. It was the exact style of what I’ve wanted and I knew I could easily reproduce the same decorations on the larger scale of a Christmas tree. Again, as strange as it sounds, I was seriously excited about this new decorating scheme. I was ready to trash all of our existing stuff and hit up Target right away.

    Right in the middle of my thoughts and plans for our tree, though, God showed up. He dropped a random thought into my mind that I would have never expected at that moment. He said to me, “In the United States, we’ve moved from the defining characteristic of our possessions being functionality, to the defining characteristic being beauty. Because of the wealth that Americans experience, that you simply have a possession is no longer enough. Now if you already have it, but that possession isn’t necessarily perfect to you, it seems ok to replace it for the sake of beauty.”

    Honestly, that thought shocked me. It made me realize that I can so easily be literally wrapped up in thoughts about how to perfect my possessions…but God might have a better way, a better story. 

    Now, I’m certainly not trying to imply that our things and our homes, including our Christmas trees, should NOT be beautiful. In fact, if you look at creation, God made things to be both functional AND beautiful. However, I think there’s more to my Christmas tree example than just a creative expression that reflects God. 

    What I think God was gently saying to me, was, that I, like many Americans, am a subconscious slave to materialism and consumerism. Somewhere along the line, because we are a rich enough society to already HAVE things (like tree decorations), the main focus of our possessions is no longer necessity or functionality; beauty has become the main ‘need.’ We’re no longer content with just having possessions…they have to be perfect, ideal, exactly in style, exactly what we like. 

    ‘So what’s wrong with that?’ you might ask. Well, here are my initial thoughts as I think through the lens of my current tree situation. 

  1. If my thoughts about decorating my tree this year are all wrapped up in getting new decorations and decorating my tree perfectly, I’m probably valuing the beauty of my tree. There might be other values that, if I were more settled about my tree, I could focus my energy on: like my family. Like the incarnation. Like my neighbors. 
  2. Consumerism and materialism say that I have to keep buying MORE, accumulate MORE, and have nicer, better, prettier things. I just don’t think that that’s what Jesus would say. I think He’d value being content, settled, and restful. I think He’d want me to know that my value is never determined by my Christmas tree or by my ability to decorate it well.
  3. And lastly, God says many times in the Bible that He has a huge concern for the poor. He calls people that love Him to partner with Him in caring for the poor. I think He would want to adopt His value system in every area of my life, even Christmas trees. I think He’d want me to wrestle through how His values could be worked out practically in my life, in the middle of the United States.

Honestly, those 3 thoughts don’t sound too pleasant to me. They sound like a lot of work to think through. And it’s pretty ingrained in me that my possessions will save me: they’ll make me safe, they’ll make me significant, they’ll give me ‘the good life.’ But last weekend, at the Parent Summit, Pastor Nate said something that has stuck with me the past few days: “We’re driven to get the ‘Good Life’ (i.e. clothes, food…tree decorations). We don’t believe that Jesus is good. But as we meditate on the Gospel, we say I think His story is better than mine, and I let go of my false view of salvation and I’m freed of my story. I can then follow God’s leadership and what He puts on my heart.”

As I let go of the story to which I’ve clung so tightly, that beautiful possessions will save me, God has room to bring a better story into my life: a story about a Person saving me. A Person making me safe. A Person making me significant. And that Person is Jesus. 

So…I’d love to hear some feedback. Most people would say I’m crazy and legalistic to say that God wants to touch on the area of my Christmas tree. What do you think? Are there areas that God is challenging you to adopt His story for your life instead of your own?