Give Yourself a Little Rest
by REV. HELEN H. COLLINS
North Kent Presbyterian Church
It’s the week after Christmas. Soon it will be time to take down the tree, pack away the ornaments and other decorations. My mom always set out all the Christmas cards we received on every flat surface in the dining room and living room and it was a sign that the holidays were done when she took down the display. At this point there will still be some family get-togethers as we ring in the New Year, and we won’t do our “undecorating” party at church until after worship on January 8, but for the most part, by the time you read this, Christmas will be over.
I like to send and receive Christmas cards, although I frequently run out of time before the holidays to get them in the mail. I try to find the card that will carry not only my love and greetings, but something of the true meaning of the holiday. Several years ago I found the one that so far has been the most unforgettable. It opened accordion style with five panels. On the front of the card was a full Christmas tree with lights and ornaments. The second panel showed the tree having lost a few of its needles—the way your “real” tree might look a few days after Christmas, especially if you forgot to water it. The third and fourth panels showed the tree as it progressively lost more and more of its needles and as ornaments, with nothing to hang on to, fell to the floor. And in the last panel, the cross became visible as all the trappings, the needles, lights and ornaments were gone. The message was clear that underneath the biggest and best holiday we celebrate each year, underneath the love, the carols and Christmas specials, underneath the family time, the presents and parties, when all is said and done, when everything else is gone, the cross of the One whose birth we proclaim, the giver of God’s immeasurable love is still there.
We’ve been doing some landscaping around our church in the last year or so. If you drive down Kuttshill before the snow flies, you’ll be able to see some of the improvements to the grounds. Some of the last work was done just before it began to turn colder this fall, and those last plantings included a small evergreen tree near the main entrance. Within the first few days after it was planted, I noticed that the lower branches were all bending downwards, but at the top the small trunk stands tall with branches growing out, and my Christmas card has come to be real as a cross is clearly visible.
My first thought was that as the tree took root and drew nourishment and water from the ground that the other branches would come up, and the little evergreen would soon look like just about every other tree of its kind. Perhaps that will still happen, but day after day, week after week, now a couple of months after planting, that tree still shows a cross at its peak.
Evergreen trees have long been adopted as a symbol of Christmas, reminding us of God’s never-ending love for us.
As you put away the ornaments, the Christmas tree, the cards and presents, my prayer for you in the New Year is that you will always remember God’s gift of love: his Son.