Sunday 1 December 2013

The Christmas tree that was waiting to be discovered

In most living rooms across Australia, December 1 heralds the appearance of a rather fake-looking evergreen tree, gaudily decorated with various assortments of even more fake-looking glittery baubles, haphazardly strung with (mostly) flashing lights, and lavishly adorned with boa constrictors of tinsel... all topped off with a plastic golden star (of course). And so the Festive Season begins... with the annual tradition of putting up the Christmas tree, and without which, no Australian family Christmas would be considered complete.

Now admittedly, I confess to having a bit of a love-hate relationship with the concept of the Christmas tree. It's not as if I'm totally against this universally accepted symbol of the Festive Season. And yes, our family enjoys following the 'Christmas tree tradition' each year, although our K-Mart special is now 14 years old, shedding artificial pine needles like changes of clothes, and at 1.5m tall is considered rather vertically challenged when compared with the latest floor-to-ceiling specimens pictured in the 2013 Christmas catalogues.

But, I hate how the Christmas tree seems to have stolen the show. While every self-respecting self-promoting shopping mall proudly offers customers the opportunity to meet their 'one and only' Santa Claus, more numerous by far are the stylishly decorated Christmas trees prominently displayed at regular intervals on each level (perhaps over-exposure to heavily ornamented fake fir trees lulls shoppers into spending a little bit more than they otherwise would have on those gimmicky Christmas gifts that nobody ever uses anyway). The popularity of the Christmas tree is enough to rival and almost eclipse that of the jolly old man in the red suit, so much so that the commercial world has adopted this symbol as its own and is on a mission to rebrand the religiously offensive Christmas tree as the more socially acceptable 'Holiday Tree'.

In Christian homes and churches also, we have often allowed the not-so-humble fake Christmas tree to replace the all-too-humble, yet real symbol of Christmas - the Nativity of Christ. Each Christmas we seem to be unaware that the Fake and Secular is getting bigger, brighter, bolder... It's crowding out the Living Nativity which is considered too simple, too small, too outdated.

Therefore, I have been harbouring a growing resentment toward the Christmas tree in the living room. I've tried to compensate, to balance out the fake, to smother the secular, by decorating the shedding K-Mart special with Christmas ornaments in the shapes of angels, shepherds, wise men... even a baby in a manger. I'm fooling no one though. The artificial evergreen may have dominated my lounge room each December, but it has failed to meet my expectations... it did not capture my heart. In the end, it is not real or living, only a poor facsimile that disappoints.

So, I was about to reject Christmas trees once and for all. I didn't want to bow to the commercialism or worship the false anymore.

       I discovered something
                                          that had been right there
all along...
               and it completely changed my perception of Christmas trees...

...something glorious caught my eye as I gazed out my window the other day - the Poinciana tree in the front garden... it seemed to be on fire! It was resplendent in brilliant burnt-orange flowers. Of course, the Poinciana tree is always dressed in fiery orange at this time of year... this and every year towards Christmas time.

Why had I never realised this before? Standing right there in the front garden is our very own Christmas tree! It's been there all along, but I never recognised that it was a Christmas tree until now. No matter, it just waited. And every year allowed itself to be decorated in beautiful bright orange petals transforming it into a real live Christmas tree, the likes of which cannot be bought at any store or made in any factory.

For the Christmas tree that was waiting to be discovered is provided each year by the One who is Real and Living. It is He who created the Poinciana tree in my front garden and appoints it to become a stunning Christmas tree every Advent season. I have no hand in putting it up. I do not need to hang baubles or tinsel. I contribute nothing.

Nothing except my admiration and adoration of a great God who always gives the best gifts, if only I would open my eyes to see them, because the extraordinary and the truly real is often discovered in the places that the world considers ordinary and unworthy. How marvellous it is that I need search no farther than the fiery Poinciana in my front garden to find a real Christmas tree which testifies to a Living God who has already given us the ultimate gift - His Son. That is something truly worth celebrating!

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