Friends went out recently for their annual hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. There is so much debate today about whether the word, Christmas, and it’s celebrations are politically correct for the world we live in today. I’m not going to settle that one, but as my daughter and our woodcutter friend were collecting firewood this week for an upcoming snow in Colorado, I paused to reflect on a few things.
As Jason picked up the 8 foot logs he had cut, hoisting them over his shoulder, I was caught by the power it takes to lift this awkwardly long piece of pine and load it on the truck. Rachel and I took the less heavy ones and they were challenging. We loaded up about a cord and I could hear my shoulder beginning to cry, “uncle!” as we finished the last few. As I watched Jason, though, I thought how did Yeshua carry his cross down the streets of Jerusalem? Beaten beyond recognition and craving rest and water, he walked barefoot down the pebbled street to his crucifixion. I have had others in a bible study nail the sins of the flesh to the cross and the nails required to hold human flesh to wood…unimaginable. I bought what looked like railroad spikes and I’m telling you, I can’t imagine having it driven through my flesh.
I have a crown of grapevine thorns hanging in my solarium and I used to keep it in a hatbox for our own protection, but now it hangs on the wall. I have pricked my fingers or accidentally brushed my hand across it a few times and it is memorable. But, until now, I hadn’t really put a tree on my shoulders and carried it. I stopped in the forest for a moment to stare up at the most beautiful lodgepole pine. The bark is a silvery white and they stand so straight with branches spread out and airy and topping at about 30 feet around here.
Did he know when he prayed in the Garden that night that he would soon carry a tree upon his back and it would lift his beaten body up for all to see? As he looked into the faces of the ones he loved, was his heart heavy for what they were also about to face? Did he grieve when the soldiers gambled below him for the scraps of clothing removed from him?
I know I have fought many a physical battle in elementary school at the hands of those who hate something or someone different. I survived to fight another day. I was a frail, petite asian american and against 5 others, pretty much beaten before I began, but somewhere within me resounded a righteous anger against those who exert power because they can and use it to force others to submit to their tyranny. Kids can be cruel when there is no authority to inhibit the confusion and anger and loneliness they feel. Unfortunately, many are left drowning in the pool of hatred brought on my differences.
So as I reflect on the celebration many are preparing for this holiday season, I find myself so grateful that there was another who fought bigger battles, physical beatings, emotional trauma, and did not seek to understand the whys, just resting in the power of the One who sent Him and trusted Him to complete His journey despite the abusers, moneymongers, religious right, betrayers, jealous, ignorant creatures of His time. He focused instead on those who were suffering under the rule of those in power: the broken, the sick, the fearful, the grieving, the pure, outcasts, the condemned….all of us who are seeking in this world for the one thing that will fill a void that is always there no matter what gifts, lovers, money, friends we have. He walked as one of us and I am so grateful He calls me His beloved.