One of the tenderest parts of my preparation for Christmas is putting up the tree. Decorating it usually brings a few tears. Many of the ornaments were given to me by people who are now waiting for me in heaven. Many of the ornaments were made by my precious children who are now wonderful grown men. Some were given to me by people I rarely see anymore. Each ornament represents a person or an event or a trip that blessed me or my family. Each one has a story. I have spent twenty seven years accumulating the ornaments that make my tree complete and give it beauty and meaning.

It’s not a perfect tree where everything matches. It’s a tree that mirrors real life. Most of the ornaments on it are one of a kind. Some are elegantly beautiful; some are whimsically fun. Some shine; some are worn by age. Some are religious; some are secular. All are precious to me and are a reflection of the story of my life.

The decorations and parties and concerts are one way I try to make celebrating Christmas look different from the rest of my year. The older I get, the more my celebrations are lace with memory and tradition. That tree is precious to me because it is where those that I love will gather on Christmas morning. My tree, my life, and my effort to celebrate the birth of my Savior are all imperfect, but God is not deterred by my imperfection; it is the reason he came to save me.

My intentional focus on the fact the God interrupted history to send his son to earth is intertwined with family needs and schedule demands. When I choose to acknowledge God’s incredible gift of that first holy night of Jesus’ life, Christmas comes to my den and my heart as surely as it did to the stable and hillside in Bethlehem.

That Christ child would grow up to lead those willing to follow him through all the events of their lives: the shiny and the raggedy, the glorious and the tender, the sacred and the secular. He didn’t insist that we become holy so that we could know him; he came to help us become holy in the midst of all the stuff and shine and stress of our lives. May your home and your Christmas celebration be characterized by his presence, his peace, and his joy as you allow him to weave the story of your past into all that is to come in the new year.