the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
We usually have our Christmas tree in place by December first but this year the third week in Advent came and went and still no tree. There never seemed to be time to head for the hills and we didn’t feel we had the extra money for a commercial tree. The situation was grim. Then, just when we were starting to eye the neighbors landscaping, someone in our church came to the rescue: Dennis and Barb Seubert were kind enough to offer us a tree from their place. So, on Monday of this week, two of my sons and I piled into the pickup and drove out to the Seubert ranch.
Barb came to the door of the house and ushered us to the shop were Dennis was working. After greetings all around, Dennis climbed aboard his four wheeler and led out across the snow covered field with my two sons and me following in the pickup. We churned up the hill and arrived at a meadow reseeding to forest, sprinkled with small trees. Having led us to his natural tree farm, Dennis said “so long” and went back to the shop, leaving us to select our Christmas greenery.
A brisk wind with intermittent sleet stung our faces as we made our way to a likely tree. After a brief discussion concerning the merits of that particular evergreen, we cut it down and climbed back to the pickup, dragging our find behind us. It was then that I noticed the spectacular view from the top of the hill. The opportunity to view the scene was as much a gift as the tree.
We often decry the crass commercialism of the holiday season and lament the emphasis on gifts. Yet, I think perhaps we spend too little time focusing on gifts during Christmas. The primary gift we should consider is Jesus Himself. But we should also reflect on the fact that without Jesus there can be no meaningful gift giving at all.
The Bible says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:15-17). Therefore, without Christ as the absolute it is not really possible to appreciate the wonder of this realm. Without Jesus, there is no rationale for the warmth of human relationships, no joy in extending or accepting a gesture of kindness. Apart from Christ there is no reason to appreciate the beauty of snow covered mountains. If Jesus is myth, there is no reason for pride in the accomplishments of our children. If Jesus is nothing more than a great man then there is no reason - no purpose or meaning – in anything. Even René Descartes’ postulate, “I think, therefore I am,” is false unless all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Most people reject the logical conclusion of a life that denies Jesus Christ and live on borrowed philosophical capital instead. They refuse to admit it because the ramifications are too terrible; no one wants to admit their worldview is devoid of meaning, purpose and hope.
Hence, our Advent emphasis should be on gifts. We should praise God for his Son. We should find pleasure in the magnificence of life. We should relish time spent with family and friends. We should delight in the reality of joy. We should thank God that there is a reason for the season.