Anticipating Advent: My Christmas Tree is a Cross

My parents made Christmas a very special time of remembrances, especially putting up the tree and decorating the house, both inside and outside. I brought that to my family. My wife made special treats to eat, years before I had made a special tape recording (reel to reel if you’re old enough to know what that is) of Christmas music, all for us to enjoy as we, together put up our tree and decorations.

I’m happy to say that my kids carry on some of that tradition today.

My Christmas “Tree” today is a cross.

I remember the first time that I saw a nativity set with little tiny nails laying in the manger, next to the Baby Jesus hands. It was a startling sight but pregnant with the reality and purpose of His birth, life, and death over 30 years later.

I still love and admire the decorations, the wonderful music, the Christmas trees, all of the precious age old traditions at Christmas…unless that’s all there is.

I have come to see that Christmas for believers is a call to MINISTRY of the greatest gift of all!!

It’s the “Ministry of Reconciliation,” as talked about in I Corinthians 5:17-19

“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to US the word of reconciliation.”

Reconciliation is the only topic that is repeated in the Lord’s Prayer. First, Jesus says “Forgive me my trespasses AS (in the same way and extent) I FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST ME.”

And then, as if to to make sure His disciples got it, Jesus says “If YOU forgive men for their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. BUT, if you do NOT forgive men, then your Father will NOT forgive your transgressions.”

Maybe that’s why we’re supposed to “leave our gift on the altar and go and first be reconciled to your brother and then present your gift.”

Oh the weight and significance of this message at this time of year especially!!!

The Ministry of Reconciliation means that you kids forgive the classmate who made fun of you on the playground. It’s forgiving the classmate who posted something you said or did on Facebook to embarrass you. It’s forgiving the neighbor next door who keeps letting his dog crap on your lawn. It’s forgiving your spouse who doesn’t do or say things you think he or she should.

When we refuse to overlook and forgive the shortcomings of those God has put in our life, when we make ourselves their judge and jury and pass sentence on them, when God has said “Vengeance is MINE, I will repay,” when we demand of our friends, neighbors, or spouse something we ourselves can’t, don’t, or won’t give, then we seat ourselves on God’s throne.

There’s only ONE God. The position is not open, it has already filled. The throne is occupied.

Forgiveness is easier SAID than done, but Jesus came to give us the example and He went to the cross to prove it and to provide it!

~Lee Mielke

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