Decorated Christmas trees are as unique and diverse as our fingerprints. What kind of tree do you display? Do you use only white lights or do you have multi-colored strands? Do you make your own ornaments or are they all store-bought?
Some prefer to have a tree that looks like a department store display with matching monochromatic ribbons and bells. The naturalists among us want a live tree, (actually it is a dead tree once it is cut down). There are people who go for a sparse tree that looks like Charlie Brown’s. Then there are trees with a collection of ornaments received and purchased over the years, each one telling a story.
We have one of those story-telling trees each Christmas at our home. As my wife puts each ornament on the tree, she reminds me of a family member or friend who gave it to us. Several of them have passed into eternity and are no longer with us. Some of the ornaments are chipped, scratched, or broken and barely held together. But each one is significant.
For some of you the hodge-podge of the unmatched pieces on our tree might sound ugly. In fact, some of the ornaments remind us of lean times of sacrifice, brokenness, and painful memories. But as we reflect on them each year, the tree actually becomes more beautiful.
There is another tree that was covered in sacrifice, brokenness, and pain. It is described in 1 Peter 2:24:
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (ESV)
The wooden cross of Jesus is referred to in some translations as a tree. And on that tree, Jesus embodied sacrifice, brokenness, and pain. And the curse and debt of our sins was nailed there, and died there with him.
Stop and imagine this scene that took place over 2,000 years ago.
The more intensely we imagine the combination of physical and spiritual suffering, the uglier this tree becomes. The body of Christ was chipped, scratched, broken and barely held together.
The tree of the cross of Christ is an ugly sight. But the pain of this sacrifice was intended to bring life and healing. Peter reminds us, “By His wounds you have been healed.”
When we confess our sins and receive forgiveness, our downcast soul begins to possess a glimmer of eternal hope. At that moment we realize, how beautiful is the tree of the cross of Jesus Christ.