Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Outside in

xmas tree We got round to purchasing, transporting, installing and decorating the Christmas tree at the weekend. Went for something a bit smaller this year and, after the usual nightmare of sorting out which set of lights work, everything was up and running just as darkness fell. My favourite decorations are some carved wooden pendants that I brought back from Bethlehem after my visit there in Advent 2008; the kids prefer something a little less subtle and a little more bling and Kate is of course taste personified.

While looking at our tree I was reminded of something I read in Jane Williams’ imaginative little book Approaching Christmas.
Part of the charm of the Christmas tree is exactly that power to evoke the strange and wonderful. Simply by being a tree, yet indoors, it speaks of the fact that ordinary rules do not apply during Christmas. The outside world is brought inside, or perhaps the inside world is shared with the outside – who knows which is the right description? Either way, as we deck the tree, we are celebrating a time when barriers are dissolved, when we can see magic in the ordinary… 
approaching christmas The evergreen Christmas tree, which keeps its colour all through the seasons, is a reminder of the never-changing love of God, as is the blurring of the inside world and the outside world. At Christmas I believe that God, who made the whole world, comes to live in just one small part of it, as a tiny human baby. The whole, huge, mysterious ‘outsideness’ of God, so much more than we can imagine or domesticate, comes ‘inside’, into our ordinary human lives. We build our houses to keep the outside world at bay, to make safe, warm places where we can live in comfort. It is our way of managing the great world that might otherwise overwhelm us. But at Christmas we bring a tree indoors, a piece of wild nature, and we decorate it beautifully and give it a place of honour in our homes…

As we bring the wild tree into our homes, and cover it with beautiful decorations, we are commemorating a God who came from the glorious, divine world to share our lives, so that we can share the life of God. And that ‘we’ is not just a few of us: it is a promise for everyone.
I like the idea of bringing something wild and undomesticated into the heart of the home. Our dog regards the idea of a tree inside the house as a convenience.

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