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We Are Like a Contorted Christmas Tree

There it stood—the best tree in the lot. It was the second Christmas of our married life, and with newlywed-like impulse, we decided to forego the two-foot high plastic tree that graced our coffee table the year before. We had found the perfect tree instead. It was wide at the base and came to a perfect point on top. With blissful Christmas cheer we paid the $25, maneuvered it into our '77 Chevy Citation, and drove to our apartment.

I cleared a spot next to the couch and set it up in the corner. At least I tried to set it up in the corner. Our perfect tree immediately fell, turning our tree stand into green and red scrap metal. Another tree stand and multiple attempts only brought about the same problem: the tree wouldn't stand up.

When I probed into the forest of green needles, I discovered our perfect tree had a huge flaw. The base of the tree began straight and centered, but the middle of the trunk contorted in pretzel-like twists, bending this way and that, but coming out straight at the top.

It was perfect on the outside but hopelessly flawed within. It could never stand on its own.

In our not-so-perfect Christmas tree I saw the story of Christmas. On the outside we like to show that we have it all together: "Tis the season to be jolly!" But inside we know differently: hurts, pains, disappointments, anger, and bitterness. Worse yet, there is that contortion of our souls the Bible calls sin.

No matter how many ornaments Lisa and I hung on our tree, we knew it could never stand on its own. And no matter how many ornaments we attach to our lives, we can never be right with God on our own.

The Christmas story is not about God seeing how nice we were and coming down to spend time with sweet people. It is the story of God seeing twisted, hurting, sinful people, and coming down to die for us. It is a story about love. God came to save us from sin. While it entailed the joy of a new baby being born, it also ended up with Jesus taking our sins upon himself and dying as our substitute.

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