Thursday, December 25, 2014
Rev. Mike Wright-Chapman
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Isaiah 11.1
The story I share for today is one told by a pastor friend of mine who, now 85 years old, remembers her most treasured Christmas as a struggling student living with her pastor father, mother, brother and sister 60 years ago…
“It was December 1954. I was in seminary, working two part time jobs to pay expenses and living with my parents. My brother was in medical school also living with parents to cut costs. My younger sister was home for Christmas break. Our older sister was married and living elsewhere.
Home was a cramped two bedroom-one bath parsonage. His last appointment before retirement, Daddy was pastoring a dying church that lost hope. Mother, unable to find her usual teaching job, was working at a menial and degrading job that drained her body and spirit.
Still, as Christmas season approached, Daddy struggled to make it special for this little congregation: sans choir, sans organ, sans candle-lit stained glass windows, sans banners and needlepoint cushions.
Love abounded in that home. It was just that love for each other in this setting meant trying to get in and out of the bathroom as quickly as possible, keeping your stuff in order as much as possible when there was no closet, shelf or furniture space to go around, and holding in your weariness and frustrations because each had more than enough of his or her own.
If any of us thought about Christmas in a personal way, it was dismissed. There just was not any time for it this year, much less money. We just hoped for some hours of rest on Christmas Day.
Somewhere in his busy schedule Daddy must have remembered that he hadn't gotten a Christmas tree for the parsonage. Shortly before the Christmas Eve Service, he scurried out and got one. Propped against the back porch, it waited for us to come home.
An exhausted father it was who carried that little tree into the house late that night. The right size to fit on the lamp table beside the sofa, surely it was the tiniest tree we had ever had. But its outward extending branches bristled thickly with short, deep green needles. Each branch junction boasted a little rosebud cone no bigger that your fingertip, amber burnished with gold. Its conical symmetry led upward to a perfect single branch reaching out the top. Its fragrance filled the too-small house and drew us out of our wearied slump. Someone began to sing, ‘Oh Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. How lovely are your branches.’ Nothing more of that Christmas lingers except the tree, dear Daddy and that moment.”
Thank you God, for reminding us in small, yet important ways the simplicity of your love and grace expressed for us at Christmas. Help us find joy in simply being with family and friends this day and everyday. Amen.
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