Setting up the Christmas tree is a tradition that many families look forward to each and every year. As much as I love sitting in our family room at night lit by the colored lights of the tree, the process of actually setting up the tree up is always one of my most stressful times of the year.
This year, however, things seemed to go fairly smoothly. My boys are older and they were a huge help in getting the tree in the stand, putting on the lights and decorating. In fact, I’d have been willing to admit that this year ended up being one of our easiest years; that is until I was sitting in our family room the next evening looking at the tree and realizing that something seemed off. The tree was crooked, really crooked. From some angles, it looked perfect but from the angle at which I happened to be looking, it looked terrible.
This caused me to reflect. So much of what I do is try to present my life as a ‘perfectly straight tree’. I think about the angles… How do people at church see me? How do my kids see me? How do my neighbors see me? I put effort into making people believe that I am much more perfect than I actually am, and often find anxiety worrying that I’ll miss one of those angles and I will be exposed. The truth is I am crooked, and although I might be able to cast off an appearance of ‘righteousness,’ the reality is I am far from it. Just ask those that are closest to me.
And as I was stared at this crooked tree, a refrain from Handel’s Messiah based on Isaiah’s prophecy was playing:
The crooked straight,
and the rough places plain,
The crooked straight,
the crooked straight,
and the rough places plain
And the rough places plain
The irony was all too real. The gospel reminds us that this little babe we celebrate each Christmas came to do what we couldn’t. He came to make that was crooked, straight, that which was rough, smooth. He who was spotless became stained and broken by our own sin so that our hearts would be restored. The reminder I need each day is that I don’t have to be preoccupied worrying about all the angles people perceive me from, rather, I am free through daily repentance and faith to stand in a righteousness that is not my own but freely given to me.
Thanks be to God that all my crookedness has been made straight. Even if my tree wasn’t.