Signs of the Season

Over the past week, our home has gone through a transformation. Let’s just say “It’s beginning to look like Christmas…” The green ivy over the window has been replaced with holly. Nativity scenes are scattered throughout the house. Snowmen have taken station where lighthouses stood guard. Mountain pictures replaced with winterscapes. And of course Christmas trees.  Big trees, short trees, thin trees. Mostly decorative, like the one in the kitchen festooned with old tin cookie cutters or the small tree in the bathroom with a flock of colorful birds. My favorite is the big tree in the front room.  It’s my favorite tree for a specific reason. Not because of its the centerpiece, or because that’s where the presents go, or because of its beauty but because it holds memories.

Several times in the Old Testament God instructed for memorials to be built.  Basically, a pile of stone signifying an event, a treaty, or a covenant. One of my favorite instances is in Joshua.  God miraculously lowered the Jordan river so the Israelites could cross into the promised land. After they had crossed Joshua was instructed to send men back to gather twelve stones, one for each tribe.  I can just imagine the contest as each man tried to carry back the largest stone. Joshua instructed, “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:1–7, NASB95) Notice that the stone memorial erected by Joshua was not simply an event marker, like those historical markers scattered on our highways, “XYZ battle was fought here in 123.”  Joshua’s memorial was a place for generations to learn and remember the goodness of God.

Our big Christmas tree is not a fancy one with golden balls and red ribbons or whatever the style is this year. It is instead a memory tree with ornaments ranging from the hand crocheted stars to porcelain figurines. Some were passed down from our families. Many mark a special moment. Sure, some ornaments are more precious than others. But in some way, each one can be used to tell about God’s faithfulness.  Well, the plastic facsimile of a shipping crate marked “FRAGILE” cradling a particular lamp may be a bit of a stretch. Perhaps its a reminder of how silly we can be at times.

I don’t know how your house is decorated or what your tree looks like.  I encourage you, however, to have a tree decorated with memories somewhere in the mix. It may not be the most stylish or beautiful but it will be the most meaningful. Remember the stories when each ornament is hung. Tell the stories whenever a child or grandchild points to one that catches their eye. Let each one be a sign of God’s love, grace, and faithfulness as you gather to celebrate the greatest gift of all time, Jesus Christ.

Dale Heinold
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