By Max Lucado
The Christmas tree hunt is on. Families are entering tents and patrolling sidewalks. They lift limbs and examine needles. They measure. They ponder. They consider. They barter.
The tree can’t be too tall or too short. It needs to fit the room and the budget. It must be full yet not dense, mature but not dry. A noble fir for some. A Douglas fir or Virginia pine for others. The preferences are different, but the desire is the same. We want the perfect Christmas tree.
And, oh, the special moment when we find it. When we lash it to the car. Drag it into the house and set it in the tree stand.
We revel in this moment. Only a few people have won the U.S. Open, completed an Ironman triathlon, or qualified as Rhodes Scholars. Fewer still have positioned a Christmas tree so that it doesn’t lean.
Throughout the year we prepare. We read articles, attend seminars, swap ideas, and share secrets. We are bonded by the desire to avoid the tragedy of the holiday season: a leaning tree.
One year I barely escaped. Denalyn and I placed the tree in the stand, stood back, and sighed at what we saw. The dreaded tilt. I crawled under the branches and began adjusting the screws until the tree stood as straight as a stalk of wheat. We stepped back and admired my engineering skills. Denalyn placed her arm in mine, and I choked back tears of joy. My children called me blessed. Angels began to sing. The blast of trumpets sounded in the front yard where neighbors had gathered. The White House called to congratulate me. We strung the lights and hung the decorations. It was a wonderful night.
Then disaster struck. The tree started to lean again. Decorations shook, lights shifted, Denalyn shouted, and I ran to the rescue.
This time I placed the tree on its side, removed the stand, and saw the source of the problem. Just six inches above the cut line was a right turn. Our tree was crooked! Once upon a time in a forest, this tree had been a leaner! And now here it was, in our house, in broad daylight, in front of my own children—leaning again!
What’s a person to do? As I was retrieving a saw from the garage, it occurred to me: I’m not the first father to deal with this issue. God faces this situation on a continual basis. Don’t we have our share of unattractive bents?
I know I do. Take just the last three days:
- I avoided returning a call to a congregant because most of the time conversations with him generate more whine than Napa Valley. I saw his number on my phone and groaned, “I don’t want an earful of his woes.” And I’m a pastor! One of his pastors! I’m supposed to love the sheep, feed the sheep, and care for the sheep. And I avoided this sheep. (I eventually called. He wanted to compliment a sermon.)
- I woke up at 2:30 yesterday morning, reliving the outcome of a meeting. I disagreed with a particular decision. When the vote was taken, I was in the minority. And I was ticked off. Between 2:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., I convicted each of the other team members of stupidity and insensitivity. My thought pattern was toxic.
- And then there is the issue of a deadline. Will I make it? Why did I agree to it? Why does the publisher demand it? Don’t they know it takes space for a fragile soul like mine to create?
Would that I stood as straight as a sequoia, but I don’t. And since I don’t, I find a kindred spirit in the Christmas tree. I think you will find the same. What you do for a tree, God does for you.
He picked you.
Do you purchase the first tree you see? Of course not. You search for the right one. You walk the rows. You lift several up and set them down. You examine them from all angles until you decide, This one is perfect. You have a place in mind where the tree will stand. Not just any tree will do.
God does the same. He knows just the location where you’ll be placed. He has a barren living room in desperate need of warmth and joy. A corner of the world needs some color. He selected you with that place in mind.
As King David wrote, “You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. . . . All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old” (Psalm 139:13, 14, 16, New Century Version).
God made you on purpose with a purpose. He interwove calendar and character, circumstance and personality to create the right person for the right corner of the world, and then he paid the price to take you home.
_ _ _
Excerpted from Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado. Copyright © 2016 by Max Lucado. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.
Max Lucado serves as senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, and is a best-selling Christian author and writer.