In my historical Victorian neighborhood, families might put up two, three, or even four Christmas trees during the holiday season. The first tree is usually the fanciest. This one tends to face the street. This is the Instagram-ready tree that’s draped with the loveliest or most impressive ornaments and a fancy foliage vibe that screams, “Look, we’ve got our act together this Christmas!”
Tree number two tends to be the family tree. This one has a homemade look that only the people living within the walls love. This is where the kids’ perfectly imperfect ornaments rest for a few weeks each year. In my opinion, this tree isn’t complete unless there’s a saltdough candy cane created by a second-grader or a Scotch-taped construction paper wreath with a snaggle-tooth photo of an elementary school kid. This is the tree that we smile at each night after the kids go to sleep or we linger by if our kids are grown up and out of our home.
Looking at our Christmas trees evokes all kinds of emotions. But do you realize that whether you put up four or none or one Christmas tree in your home, we all tend to pop up emotional Christmas trees in our hearts?
Our emotional Christmas trees are decorated with a mix of internal ornaments like memories, expectations, and anticipation. When we’re feeling upbeat and joyful, other bright and shiny bulbs like joy, gratitude, peace, and hope hang from the branches and light up our hearts. Since life isn’t perfect, the less-than-popular bulbs like past holiday hurts, resentment, unrealistic expectations, and holiday fears take up their space on the tree, too. Even if we don’t acknowledge our bah-humbug baubles, they are there.
Maybe, your emotional Christmas tree is filled with memories of past, happier Christmases, and this year, you feel like you’ve been robbed because life isn’t the same and you miss that old life. Perhaps, your heart tree is anxious because nothing has gone as planned, or it’s overwhelmed because you have way too many plans.
Today is an invitation for you to tend to your inner emotional Christmas tree and believe that God can light up your heart with hope. Will you give God that chance so that you can experience all His best blessings this holiday season? It’s so easy to let the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season camouflage or even cover up what’s happening inside of us. Can we agree that smiling on the outside, but suffering on the inside is no way to spend the holiday season?
Eight Christmas seasons ago, I didn’t have the strength to decorate any of the Christmas trees in my home because of a marriage separation, and my oldest child left for a year-long military assignment two weeks after Thanksgiving. My emotional Christmas tree was overloaded with sadness, grief, fear, and pain, and I almost gave up on celebrating Christmas. The a-ha moment came as John 1 reminded me that Jesus’s hope was bright enough to light up the dark pain in my heart, even if my circumstances didn’t change:
“The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
John 1:4-5 NLT
In my dark season, Jesus’s light provided the path that I needed to walk through that time in my life. His gift of peace (John 14:27) calmed my chaotic heart so that I could see the evidence of God’s constant care for me.
As a practical way of living this out, I decided to create a visual reminder. I bought a pack of large wooden cutout ornaments and wrote the words on the front that I desired to reflect in my heart with a matching verse on the back. Hanging these on a Christmas tree reminded me of the attitude and gratitude that I wanted to hang out in my heart.
Here are a few examples:
JOY – Always be joyful. (1 Thessalonians 5:16 NLT)
HOPE – I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. (Romans 15:13 NLT)
PEACE – Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)
GRATITUDE – Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16:34 NLT)
What if you took time this Christmas season to invite God to decorate your inner emotional Christmas tree with the good gifts that He gives? Whether you decorate ornaments with verses or put these verses in your phone as a reminder, the more you focus on the light that Jesus’ life brings, the more your heart will shine that light out in a world that needs Jesus’s hope now more than ever.