My family loved the moment when we sat in darkness before its light.
Each year my children would hound me about when it was going to happen; they would commiserate with one another about how big it would be. We would load them into the car and go to the place we always went to pick out our family Christmas tree.
After weighing everyone’s opinions, we would decide, tie the tree to the roof of our car, and make our way home. That night we would decorate our tree together as a family. After we adorned the tree with splendor, we would turn off all the lights, amazed as it shone brightly in the darkness.
I love these kinds of moments because I think as believers, we should be the most celebratory community on earth. We know all the good things that we enjoy and all the family love we experience are sweet and undeserved gifts from our Heavenly Father.
But I am concerned that we remember—and that we help our family remember—that while this beautiful holiday season is about a tree, it’s not about the decorated tree in your living room that you’ve so carefully adorned.
From the moment of his first breath, the life of that baby in the manger was marching toward a tree. It would not be a tree of beauty or celebration but of sacrifice and death. It would not stand in someone’s home as part of a seasonal tradition but would be outside the city walls on a hill of execution.
That baby wouldn’t stand before his tree and smile at its beauty but would be tortured on it, nailed between convicts. That tree on the hill was not a symbol of a season but an instrument of judgment. On that seemingly hopeless hill, that tree of death gave life and hope to humanity.
The Advent season tells a story that will take your breath away. It’s a story about inescapable need, a glorious incarnation, a substitutionary life, an atoning sacrifice, and a victorious resurrection. Only God could write such a story, and only God could complete the plot.
It’s a story meant to amaze us, humble us, capture us, rescue us, transform us, and cause us to live in wonder and worship. This story provides the only way you can make sense out of your identity and your real need. This story reveals where hope is to be found and points you to the meaning and purpose of your existence.
I have no problem with the seasonal stories of sleds, snowmen, gifts, and goodies. Nor do I stand in opposition to singing silly seasonal songs. What I am concerned about is that in the midst of such excitement decorating our Christmas tree, we forget about the Cross.
Make your Advent conversation about a tree, but not the one in your living room. Talk about how that baby in the manger came not to decorate a tree, but to hang on it for your salvation. Remind yourself and your family that in a world darkened by sin, that tree of sacrifice and salvation shines as a light of eternal hope that will never, ever go out.
Paul David Tripp
- How can you make your Christmas celebration bigger and better this year? What new memories can you create?
- In the midst of this momentary Christmas celebration, how can you ensure that your attention still is focused on the eternal Gospel?
- How did you demonstrate this week that you still need the saving blood of Jesus, shed for you on the Cross?
- How did the bondage-breaking work of Jesus on the Cross enable you to choose God’s kingdom over your own sinful desires this week?
- Outside of your family, whom do you have a relationship with who needs to hear the real story about Christmas?