THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS TREE

While living in the country, several years back, our family had a Christmas custom. Each year we would search our pastures and cut down a scrub pine for our Christmas tree. After cutting down our find, and hauling it home, the real work began…at least for Jerry. Wrestling the prickly branches, he would valiantly struggle to set the tree straight in the stand under the direction of 4 women, each with a different opinion! Once secure, we proceeded to clear out the spider webs, stray grass, an occasional bird’s nest and give it a good spraying with Raid in case any” critters” were still in residence! Next Jerry would turn it like a slow top as we determined the best side to face the room.
One particular Christmas, the girls decided this would be the year of the PERFECT TREE. They became a self-appointed committee of three, and thus was born The O.C.T.S.C. (Official Christmas Tree Selection Committee.) It just so happened that a friend with a great deal of land (I’m talking miles) gave us permission to search for a tree. The big day arrived, and as we loaded up to leave, the girls INSISTED and PLEADED to bring two of our new puppies, and rather porky puppies at that! All three made death promises to carry the pups and take care of them. Against my better judgement I caved in. So off we went, Jerry, the Kindly Woodsman; me, the soon to be Keeper of the Puppies; the O.C.T.S.C., and 2 fat black, 6 week old, tons of lard with their whines on continuous play.
Upon arrival, we all tumbled out of the truck, to find just a few feet away, a darling little tree. Jerry told the girls, There is the perfect tree. It is the right size, shape and everything! The O.C.T.S.C. met for a quick consultation, and assuming this was a ploy to shorten the adventure, quickly declared the tree: Imperfect.
You see, we were dealing with a logistics problem here also. Our house was built by a man around 5 ft. tall with a family all under 5ft. Therefore, with them in mind, the house only had 7 ft. ceilings! A tree stand would add another 8”-10” to the tree height! Add to this problem, a 12’ x 12’ livingroom, with a couch, chairs, end tables, coffee table, an old upright piano (amazing isn’t it?), and a dangerous O.C.T.S.C. with BIG ideas.
The Kindly Woodsman tried to discuss it with the Committee, but to no avail. Venturing off through the woods, we found the trees were thick. Quickly, the girls asked me to hold the puppies, just until we got through the brush. Foolishly, I took them. Shrill yelps soon rang out because they were cold, so I tucked them into my coat. Trudging along through thick brush with my grunting load, I felt like I was 8 months pregnant! Shortly, came the unmistakable little howl and wiggle, time for a potty stop. Once on the ground their full bladders forgotten, they scattered in several directions at once! Following a fast skirmish, pups securely in my coat again, I looked up to see the O.C.T.S.C. and the Kindly Woodsman far ahead!. In a loud voice I threatened them to wait for me! Though peeved at my interference of such important affairs, they tramped back. Heated discussion ensued. The solution was proposed that the puppies be put in the truck, but the decision was unanimous that poopy puppy was a name truly earned. (Not to mention it was Pappaw’s truck!) Laying down the law, I gave each girl a puppy and a stern reprimand to care for them.
Off we ventured again. The girls were having a time. The pups were so fat they didn’t fit in the in their small coats; if they their coats were zipped, the pups howled in pain; if their coats were unzipped the pups popped out, and the girls couldn’t keep warm. Grudgingly, I took on my pregnancy once again. After 2 potty stops for the puppies, the brush began to clear, I thought things were looking up. . . that was until I looked down! Before us was a ravine with a nearly straight 15 ft. drop down and 15 ft. straight up the other side. To make matters worse, there was no way around it! A pathetic whine arose; I don’t know if it was the pups, me, or both! The O.C.T.S.C. gave a gleeful shout. My legs were already so scratched and bleeding from the brush, they resembled two scratching posts that had serviced a dozen cats! Sympathetically, the Kindly Woodsman took the pups and he and the girls plunged into the adventure ahead, sliding down, holding on to roots, rocks or whatever they could grab, with their laughter echoing through the woods. Down one side and up the other they went with great ease. Impatiently they waited on the other side as I struggled, giving more blood donations along the way. Clawing the dirt with my fingernails, I finally drug myself over the edge, and was promptly handed 2 pudgy, squealing puppies. Faithfully depositing them in my coat, I heard no protests.
A new clearing revealed few trees, but was covered in coarse brush with hills perfect for a roller coaster site. The further I went, the heavier the pups grew. Viewing tree after tree, the O.C.T.S.C. smugly reassured us. – No that’s not the perfect tree. We’ll know it when I see it,
One and a half hours later of this intense, grueling expedition, we came upon . . . . . the same ravine. Mastering it a second time we walked a little further and a small clearing opened up. Suddenly awe struck gasps and cries rang out from the O.C.T.S.C.!! Before us, in all its glory, towering 15 feet above our heads was the PERFECT TREE!!
“THAT’S IT! THAT’S IT!” they hollered, jumping up and down. Valiantly the Kindly Woodsman tried to reason with them. They stubbornly stuck with their decision, and after a long discussion agreed to let him cut the top out. Heading back to the truck for a bigger ax, we all turned and saw the truck sitting only 30 ft. from us; we had made a complete very large circle!!
Tree cut and loaded, we jumped into the truck, frozen and bleeding. Immediately the girls wanted to hold the pups!! (Wouldn’t you know it?!)
In the livingroom, we found the perfect tree, had to have about 1 ft. cut off 3 different times! Each time Jerry drug it in and out of our tiny living room, up and down the porch steps. Anchored in its stand, it looked somewhat less than perfect. The lower branches still reached out to the sofa and chairs grappling toward us like octopus tentacles. One by one, these branches were shortened. Huge gaping holes appeared in the tree. You can imagine what it looked like!! What looked great in the forest in the top of a tree looked pathetic in a little farmhouse livingroom with midget ceilings! The O.C.T.S.C. was in tears and angrily accused, “What have you done to our perfect tree!? You ruined it! “
We comforted the girls and tried to explain what happened. The usual decorating frenzy followed and we filled in the holes with lots of tinsel, garland, and ornaments. We were thankful that one side of it HAD to sit next to the wall! Sitting around the tree, admiring the lights and ornaments, with the branches tickling at our knees, I heard one of the girls say, You know, we should have picked the very first tree Daddy showed us, it was perfect. Two other distant sounding, sad voices echoed in agreement. Of course, we had a very Merry Christmas, but the girls learned a great lesson.
Isn’t that how it is in the lives of so many? What are you searching for – the perfect spouse, the perfect church, the perfect pastor, the perfect job…? How many of you are putting yourself and others through pain, sorrow, frustration, disappointment, and failure in pursuit of your object of perfection? The quest for perfection has left a trail of devastation in lives everywhere. After the supposed perfect person/situation is found, and after all reality trims away the infatuation, we see our find is far less than ideal. Tragically we realize that which we rejected as flawed was better than what we have now and far more valuable than we had known. In the coming year let’s limit our quest for perfection to ourselves and becoming more like the perfect Bethlehem Babe whose birth we celebrate this month. Merry Christmas and God Bless Each of You!
This was published in the Oklahoma Missionary Baptist Paper in 2000.

Mr. Christmas by Narita Roady

In Wilshire England there is an electrician named Andy Park who is known to many as Mr. Christmas. He claims that he loves Christmas more than anyone and has been true to his word by celebrating it every day for the last 19 years. In 1993 after suffering from bouts of depression, he decided it was up to him to choose to be happy and not let stress rule his life. Remembering how good he felt during the Christmas season, he decided he would celebrate Christmas every day. He unboxed all his decorations, adorned his house, and make it Christmas from that day forward.
Every morning he wakes up and eats 6 to 7 mince tarts. He opens presents he has purchased and wrapped for himself the night before, pretending he hasn’t a clue what is in them. One year he even bought himself a Mercedes! This is one way to make sure you always get the gifts you want! Next, he lovingly looks at the Christmas card he signed especially for him, from him (sometimes 2 or 3 cards)! Of course he hand delivers it to save on postage by walking out the door, putting it through his mail slot, going back inside and picking it up. What a substantial savings that is considering the last total in 2008 was 235,206 cards!
Then it is off to work for about three hours (after all someone has to pay for all of this!) and back home for a complete Christmas dinner. This includes watching the Queen’s Christmas Day address to the nation. (Recorded from the previous year of course!)
All this holiday cheer has cost him a whopping $500,000. He has consumed 6,622 turkeys, 34,276 roasted potatoes, 117,600 Brussels sprouts, over 6660 pints of gravy, over 30.660 stuffing balls, and 94,080 mince pies, in addition to numerous carrots and peas. He has also popped more than 204,400 Christmas cracker favors, worn out 37 electric ovens, and 23 video recorders.
After going over through over 30 Christmas trees, his present one of two years has proven to be his . . .uh. . . favorite. He has decided he wants to marry it! A beautiful ring has even been purchased but he is in a dilemma as to which branch to place it on. Do not wait for a nuptial announcement yet because he is having difficulties finding a minister to marry them! (In this day and age, I find that hard to believe) Oh, one more thing, the ONLY day Andy Park does not celebrate Christmas is . . . Christmas Day! Before we shake our heads too hard at Mr. Christmas, I think we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and make sure we do not share some of his misguided thinking. You have to admit in America today that Christ certainly is not the center of Christmas anymore, even among Christians. More important are we guilty of replacing Him too?
Did you find it ironic that the only day Mr. Park did not celebrate Christmas was Christmas Day? I did! Yet the more I thought about it the more I realized our offense is just the opposite. We claim to celebrate the birth of Jesus on JUST that day but we forget about Him the rest of the year! As born again believers God’s gift of His son is something to be thankful for everyday! Not only the gift of salvation and our deliverance from Hell, but His abiding presence in our lives 24 hours a day. To name just a few, He protects, guides, heals, comforts, nurtures, and gives joy to us non-stop. We also should be rejoicing for the beautiful home in Heaven we already have. The Babe in a manger should be our focus from January 1 to December 31 every year. “ Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4
The most obvious flaw in Mr. Park’s daily festivities is that his focus is on the rituals and details of the holiday, not the One the holiday is supposed to honor. He’s all about the baubles, decorations, sparkle, and glitz. We too easily fall into this worldly trap ourselves. How many times do people get stressed out about getting the tree up and decorated, hanging lights on the house, putting the wreath on the door, making sure treasured family nativities, bowls and candles are in the perfect spot? That’s only beginning. Following fast on the heels of “decking the halls” is the food; the frenzy of baking cookies, breads, candies, and cakes. Frantic plans for the perfect Christmas meal are included with emphasis on old family recipes and traditional favorites. Now don’t get your lights all in a tangle, I am not in any way saying these activities are wrong. I am simply asking what is your spirit and motivation behind them. Is it glorifying and delighting in our precious Savior? Most of the time you would have to say it isn’t. Do you see how we really aren’t that different from Mr. Christmas?
We become as the seed that was sown among the thorns in Mark 4:18-19.
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
Busyness preparing for December 25th consumes us and like the keeper at the in Inn that faithful night so many years ago, and we unknowingly turn Christ away. We tell Him by our actions that we have no room for Him in our hearts or homes during Christmas. Just like Mr. Parker we have missed the Reason of our celebration. Casting aside Jesus who is truly important, we pursue that which is pointless, meaningless, and worthless. Like Martha we are “careful and troubled about many things” and have failed to follow Mary’s example and chosen what is good cannot be taken away. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:41-42
Did you notice who Mr. Christmas’s daily celebration is about? Him! He is incredibly selfish. It is all about what he wants and how he feels, so there really isn’t any room for anyone else. You might be thinking, “Not me! I’m not selfish! Everything I do is for my family!” Is it now? If we are over 25 years old, it is true that we may not be concerned about what gifts we receive, but isn’t it still about us? Aren’t we trying to create emotional, sentimental feelings and attempting to fulfill our expectations of how our holiday should be? Yes, we want to give to your family, and make them happy, but are they not an extension of ourselves? We desire to give material gifts they want, but not the real Gift, the One they really need.
Can we do both, make Christ the center of our holiday and take part in traditional celebration? Yes, I believe we can, but it will take effort and focus on our part. Always the first step we should take in any matter is prayer. Ask the Lord to protect you from being ensnared society’s Christless Christmas. Seek His guidance in how He would have you honor Him. Make it a point to read your Bible daily, alone and with your family. There are many good devotional books and daily Bible readings for Christmas. You might even want to do a word study on “gifts” or “giving”. As you shop, cook and decorate, thank Him for the blessing to be able to do these things financially and physically. Consult Him before you purchase gifts and supplies that He would guide you in spending His money wisely. Make sure you don’t rob Him of His tithe to purchase expensive gifts your family doesn’t really need. That makes no sense to steal from Him to celebrate His birth does it? Listen to Christmas hymns that focus on Him and His glory, not carnal secular holiday tunes. When you find yourself becoming stressed and frazzled at all, you think you must do, be like Mary and take time to sit at His feet and listen to Him. If you let Him, He can help you weed out all those unnecessary things you feel you must do. Make sure you purpose to share Him with others. You can do this with a smile, an act of kindness, patience in stressful moments, a caring word or fulfilling a need. The most important way to share Him is by witnessing to others. Ask Him to send you those who are searching for Him. Is there someone He has laid on your heart to speak to this year and you have put it off? Go to them and share the gift of eternal life that He has given you. I can share a few ways, but don’t stop with mine, ask God how to show you how what would please Him.
After the last tissue paper and bow is thrown away and the tree is taken down, let’s all remember to celebrate Him in word and truth the next 364 days of the year too! Every day is Christ’s day!
Merry Christmas and God Bless Each of You!

Published in the Oklahoma Baptist Newspaper, December 2012