Crooked Christmas Trees

sermon audio for “Crooked Christmas Trees” by Martin Malina
The star on a crooked branch (photo by Martin Malina, 2021)

I have tree problems, I must admit. The Christmas tree inside the house, and the trees outside our house, have certain challenges, you might say.

When I ordered our artificial Christmas tree some years ago, I wanted it to be tall enough to just reach the ceiling of our living room. So I ordered the 10-foot one. However when it arrived and I set it up in place, the tip was about 6 inches too long. So, I had to deal with a crooked tip. How would a star fit on top of my Christmas Tree?

The opposite problem existed outside. The tips, the leads, of two of my six white pine trees, now about 6 feet tall have fallen off because of the white pine blister fungus. These trees will lose their straight-line trunk as they grow and reach for the sky. 

When these tips fell off a couple months ago, I must admit I grieved this change of their life’s trajectory. The trees will have a crooked trunk from about six feet up. Their new branches near the top will eventually bend towards the sky. They will not look the way I had envisioned when I first planted the seedlings in a row at the back of our property.

When I did a book search on Amazon using the title “The Crooked Tree” I was surprised to find not one, but several books with this title. All of them were geared to Christmas time, and most of them offered a spiritual message.[1]

I guess I’m not alone in searching for meaning in a Christmas Tree that is not perfect, crooked in fact. Would we yearn for a celebration of Christ’s birth that was not encumbered by expectations we have, expectations that contribute to the stress of the season?

I love Charlie Brown Christmas trees – a 2-foot tall, low-leaning branch in a pot, really, bearing only one red ball which pulls down the tip. Whenever I see one in someone’s house, I gravitate towards it. 

A living branch (photo by Beth MacGillivray, 2021)

But when we set up our Charlie Brown Christmas trees, is it the only festive tree in the house? Or, is it meant only to serve some comic-relief, meant merely to complement the other more serious decorations in our homes? Do we make sure the real, dressed up, ‘perfect’ tree is centred in front of the picture window in the grand rooms of our homes? I’d be tempted to go there, I must admit.

I like the story about Martin Luther in the sixteenth century going into the bush before Christmas, cutting down and hauling in an evergreen tree to put candles on it. Lighted, these candles attached to the branches of the tree. They reminded Luther of the stars that he saw shining in the sky above. They filtered through branches of the forest around him. Martin Luther, of course, understood these lights to symbolize the light of Christ shining in the dark, the light coming into the world.

I will read later tonight from the first chapter of the Gospel of John describing the light coming into the world.[2] That is the meaning of Christmas—Jesus, Son of God, came to us. 

And what is more to this story of Jesus coming – the Light of the world shining in the night – is that God does not wait until the morning. God does not wait until midday when all is bright in our lives. God comes at night when the monsters creep in the shadows and our minds and hearts can’t see clearly.

Understand, God does not wait until everything is perfect. God does not wait until you find your way. God does not wait until you get it right. God does not wait until you fix all your problems. God does not wait until everything that is wrong is gone. God does not wait until COVID is over before coming into our lives.

Because on a crooked branch, there is still room. The top part of my Christmas tree can still hold a star. There is room aplenty on crooked branches to hold all manner of stars.

And God rejoices this night. God rejoices that the tree with crooked branches can bear the star, hold the light. And that is all we are: Christ-bearers, holders of the light. Our hearts, our lives, crooked and imperfect in every way imaginable, can still reflect and hold the light that has come. That, my friends, is good news.

It just makes me want to sing! “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree …”

[1] A couple of books I have read recently – Damian Chandler, The Crooked Christmas Tree: The Beautiful Meaning of Jesus’ Birth (New York: Hachette Book Group Inc., 2017); and, Michael Tracey, The Crooked Christmas Tree (Michael Tracey, 2012).

[2] John 1:1-5

1 thought on “Crooked Christmas Trees

  1. This year our artificialc hristmas tree looked normal coming out of the box. I carefully assembled it and plugged it in. To my surprise the last 3 feet ought did not work. I checked each socket 50-60 led lites but no improvement. I figured it had to be the plug was the issue. I removed the old one and added a recycled plug. We plugged in the lights, but we’re still left with 9 inches of no lites. It was a less then perfect tree but by moving some of the other lights from below and above we made it work.. we celebrate Christmas with a glorious less then perfect tree, but it brings us the same warmth when family gathers. I have pictures of it to send.

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