The first seeds of doubt were planted as I leaned in to push against the trunk; my face fully engulfed in needles as my fingertips stretched towards the center. The late afternoon sun found our family walking the familiar snowy paths of our local Christmas tree farm in search of the perfect tree to adorn our home. We had passed on those deemed to short or too tall and settled on the beauty before me. Yet now, as I found myself submerged within its fullness, I wondered if this had been a wise choice.
We’ve had our share of Christmas tree mishaps in years past from trees falling over multiple times to one that chose to quit taking in water weeks before Christmas and therefore dropped its needles. Every year, we debate about whether or not we should get a real tree, and every year, we choose adventure over artificial. Yet, with needles threatening to go up my nose and sap sticking to my cheek, I wondered if this particular adventure was indeed the best choice.
I watched three grown men heave our precious bundle onto the top of our car, and I felt another wave of doubt wash over me. How on earth would we manage to not only get this thing inside, but get it standing upright? It’s at moments like this that I am so thankful for my husband. He was already formulating a plan on how we would tackle this tree raising.
Once home, he carefully pulled our tractor, fork lifts attached, up to the side of our car. He instructed me to stand on the back of the tractor to serve as a counterweight and proceeded to cut the ties that had held our precious cargo safely on our drive home. I held my breath, fearing the worse. Would the tractor be able to hold the weight of the behemoth we had brought home? With an encouraging push from my husband, I watched as the tree rolled towards me. I braced myself as it dropped from the top of the car and safely onto the forks below. The breath I had been holding released and laughter spilled forth.
More laughter followed as we heaved our tree over the railing onto the back deck and guided it ever so gently into the corner where it would reside for the weeks to come. (Actually, there was nothing gentle about it. It was more of a hold on and don’t you dare let the bottom kick up as we moved it into an upright position.)
As my husband freed the branches from its bindings and snow flung in every direction, I couldn’t help, but hear God’s whispers. “Open your eyes and see. See Me. I am here. I am in this moment. I am found in the scent of pine, the laughter of a child, the snow melting into a puddle on your floor. I’m found in the crisp, cold air, the twinkle of the stars, the warmth of a fire. I am here. Are you choosing to see me? Are you choosing to take great delight in me? Are you choosing to chase joy?”
Joy. How does one even begin to define it for it is more than just happiness. Joy is not rooted in our circumstances, but in the utter delight found in the presence of our Savior. A Savior whose fingerprints can be seen in all and through all. In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp says, “Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped.” Joy is a gift. It is a gift that was given in the form of a baby many years ago. In Luke 2, we find these words:
“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’”
Luke 2:8-12 (NLT)
The birth of our Savior was to bring great joy to all people. Great joy! To experience this joy we must accept the gift. Accept the gift of a Savior that died in our place. Accept the gift and then seek Him. What does it mean to seek? It means to be in pursuit of something, to chase after it. Seek Him in the laughter and in the heaviness that life can bring. Seek Him in the quiet and in the chaos. Seek Him in the everyday mundane and in the unexpected moments we face. Seek Him. Look for Him. Chase after Him. Chase joy.
And, in those moments when life feels too hard, and it’s difficult to see His hand moving . . . in those moments when you feel weary and joy seems out of reach . . . in those moments, sweet friend, choose thanks. Shift your gaze from all that is hard and look for those things for which you can be grateful. A child to love. A pillow beneath your head. A sun that rises each morning. Ann says, “While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He know that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving . . . Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see.” Chasing joy requires a slowing down, a grateful heart, and a desire to see our world through His eyes.
I pray this Christmas that you would accept the gift of our Savior, chase joy, and simply delight in His presence. Look for Him. Look for the traces of His fingerprints through all and in all. During this season, give thanks for a Savior who gave it all for you.
By the way, every time I look at this tree, I give thanks. Thanks for the adventure and for helping me see. #largemarge
Voskamp, Ann. The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. Carol Stream, IL. Tyndale House. 2013.
Voskamp, Ann. One Thousand Gifts, a Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 2010.