From a Christmas past:
The evening grew later as I horsed the over-sized fir tree through the dining room into the living room trailing a wave of needles behind me. I had trimmed the base to create a new entry point for water and took care to make the cut straight. Alas, no matter how many times I adjusted the thumbscrews on the stand the tree leaned. Each attempt to correct the slant brought me closer to full-blown grouch mode, and I snapped at two little girls underfoot whose eyes overflowed with “I love Christmas!” They simply wanted to hang their decorations.
I dropped to my knees in the classic Jimmy Stewart move from “It’s a Wonderful Life” and looked to my wife. “I sound just like my Dad. He usually waited till the last minute to get the tree and putting it up often became a family fuss. Dad was obsessed with having the entire evergreen structure perfectly plum, and Mom could detect even the slightest list. I don’t want our kids to have that sort of memory.”
Shawn slid her arm around my shoulders. “My Dad always obsessed with having a straight tree also.”
“Honey, let’s agree that our tree will always be crooked. I mean, as long as it is stable, who cares if the top is a bit off center?”
She concurred, and a Christmas tradition was born.
Yes, our tree is crooked, and we do not care. Christmas has so much more to offer beyond a perfectly plum tree. Pro tip: keep the room darkened with only the tree lights twinkling, and no one will notice the lean. And if by chance someone says something about “your crooked tree” suggest he visit his eye doctor. Some folks just have to find fault, right?
In many Old Testament passages God is described as inclining or leaning His ear to hear our prayers. I inclined my ear quite often this past Saturday. My grandchildren were in the house, and I wanted to catch their every word. I love those little ones so much that their stories and concerns and achievements and calls for help are of paramount importance.
And God feels that way about me!
Christmas is about God inclining down to earth for our benefit. The desire to sin by breaking God’s rules is ingrained in me. Someone has to pay for that sin, and I’ve run up quite a debt. Here’s God, inclining Himself, ready to settle the account for me. Shepherds were the first to hear the good news.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
Why did Jesus come?
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5
Jesus came to redeem me. His Father sent Him. And now, I can call God my Father, too.
That leaning tree in my living room is more than a place to display our mementos. It takes on a new purpose in light of the startling revelation that God inclined Himself toward all mankind with the birth of Christ.
I think we may have stumbled on something profound here.