Our city has a pre-Christmas tradition. Since 1989 an event called the “Festival of Trees” takes place at the fairgrounds. Various local companies decorate (or hire someone to decorate) an artificial tree, and other companies purchase it for an exorbitant amounts of money which is then donated to a local hospital. There is always a theme. Some follow it and some don’t. But there is always one common thread, extravagance. Sometimes, the trees are so elaborate and over-the-top that you can’t even see the branches. We have been attending this as a family for the past 18 years, since our first-born was able to enjoy it. And though the themes change from year to year, there is one consistent reaction that have without fail. I want to go home and throw out all my Christmas decorations and start over.
Compared to the creativity and newness and modern decor displayed at the Festival of Trees, my house looks like a 2nd grade craft project gone bad. It looks like Christmas bomb went off, and most of the items are pushing 20+ years old. Let’s just take a little inventory as I sit in my living room. My chairs are adorned with two pillows that my mother-in-law cross-stiched (which I love, but are not exactly current decor). Moving around the room I see children’s Christmas books (belonging to my kids but also my husband and I from our childhood), 2 wooden Santas painted by my aunt in the 90’s, a stuffed stocking ornament I apparently thought I could handle making as a sewing-challenged college student, Holiday CD’s (with nothing to play them on), and then there’s the best one. Blocks of wood painted by yours truly that spell out N.O.E.L on one side and with snowmen painted on the other. They are unique because in my first house, the posts to my 4 poster bed were too tall for the ceiling (possibly because my first “house” was a trailer in married-student housing 🙂 ), so my husband’s grandparents and I carefully sawed off the ends to make it fit. I hated to throw them away, so I repurposed them.
In short, I compare my hodge-podge, dated and home-made decor to the glamour and sparkle and innovative decor of the Festival of Trees. But in the end, as I sit in my cozy living room surrounded by all this, I have to say that I love my house at Christmas. I really do. And by now I am sure you can see where I am going with all of this. Comparing myself to other people has always been a point of contention with me and God. I can quickly get caught in the trap of wishing I were someone different. Wishing my gifts were different. Or my circumstances were better and easier. Or that my kids were as successful as their kids seem to be. Or that I was as good of a writer or singer as that girl. Or that my thighs were as thin as hers. And those are just the ways I am discontent outwardly. There’s also the temptation to be dissatisfied with my innards. Hard on myself for my character defects and jealous that so-and-so doesn’t’ seem to battle with doubt or impatience or anxiety or fear.
But when I sit and read and pray and really listen to the voice of truth, I hear God whispering to me sweetly, that talk like that is trash. It is not from Him. His words to me is that he cherishes me for exactly who I am at this very moment. Sure, there might be some junk he might like to purge eventually, but as sit before Him right this very minute, I am valuable. I am valuable even though my decor is not sparkly or modern or expensive or well-placed. Even though most of me is more like my ornaments, made of felt and glue and popsicle sticks or Disney/Star Wars figures with missing or super-glued on arms, He loves me. He cherishes me. He does not wish I was someone different or more put-together. He would pay, and has paid, an exorbitant amount for this broken, aging, mis-matched soul. This is the very good news the angels brought at the first Christmas. And it is the very good news I bring to you, sweet friend, today. He loves you for exactly who you are and where you are as you sit and read this right now. Do you hear me? Right now.