Focal passage: Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25
We are a fresh tree family. Give me a night so cold I can see my breath, a Christmas tree lot with cafe lights strung like stars and sap-sticky hands hauling a tied up tree to the roof of our car. When I was younger, my mother would always ask if the tree lot had any scrap clippings they were going to throw out. Usually they did, and they gladly bundled them for her. At home she would arrange the clippings on the mantle, around our nativity and on our tables so that the entire house would smell fresh as an evergreen. Dad would turn on classic and pop Christmas tunes, and we’d wrap presents, bake blondies (ok, that was mostly mom) and enjoy the festive ambiance of the season. There was a palpable sense of presence – warmth and goodness, ease and comfort.
The 400 year break between the last Old Testament prophet and the coming of Christ must have felt cold and dark, desolate even. God hadn’t revealed his timing, but had been clear about his intentions – He made specific claims about his promise to send a Messiah and how: a virgin birth. Strange, not possible, but also scandalous and oddly normal. A baby. What a tender way to enter the world you created. What a confident Messiah.
Today, my husband and I continue our own traditions with a yearly Fraser fir. We make a big deal of cutting the ties around the branches (once we’ve survived the team effort of getting the thing perfectly straight and steady). We do a countdown and usually record the moment with our camera. It’s a big deal. The moment the branches fall for the first time, unfurling themselves to our little oohs and ahhs, is full of wonder. We take a deep breath in and begin to welcome the Christmas joy we’ve anticipated all year long.
Matthew records generation after generation and then shifts – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way…” Again and yet in a new way – God is with us. Immanuel.