On Our Christmas Tree



In Nigeria for many years, and now in Niger, we have been using the same Christmas tree for over thirty years. It’s a truly missionary tree, having been purchased from another missionary family before Becky and I were married. On the tree, year after year, we hang memories from our past, lovely hand-made ornaments purchased at Christmas sales and fairs down through the years; some fashioned by Becky, some by MK’s we have grown to love along the way, some sold by mission ministries, enabling families to provide for their own.Our tree features wood carvings, fabric designs, quilted treasures, and memorabilia from our past—all celebrating the God’s Love at the center of our Christmas celebration and worship each year. Our tree focuses our hearts on many joys, happy surprises, bittersweet losses, and much love shared. So, this year, allow me share with you some poetic reflection on some of these memories . . .


December 1, 2017 

Do we put His star upon our tree this year
To remind us how those wise men saw
It shining and followed it faithfully
Until they found Him in a manger bed?

Or do we place an angel on our tree this year
To remind us how an angel appeared
To frightened shepherds to announce
His birth and direct them to His manger bed?

Well, I guess it does not matter, though perhaps
The Baby Jesus might better top our tree
As the focus of our worship and our revelry
For it was He who came to set us free.

 December 2, 2017 

There are angels hanging on our tree
Collected across our many years in
Africa though some are clearly European
Others are obviously African,
None of them, undoubtedly, heavenly
Yet they still annually bear Good News
To Earth that Jesus comes to save the world
And each of us around their lovely tree
But also other memories, this friend who
Lovingly took the time to make an herald
Angel for our tree or one fine year our son
Or daughter seemed to get their wings.

December 3, 2017 

The shiny tinsel on our tree
All gold and red and silver bright
All glittering against the green
Reminds me of God’s Spirit keen
To shine in us with Heaven’s light
For though we live upon the  Earth
He lives in us through perfect Love
Preparing us for Home above
Where we will shine like glowing
Stars lit by love to grace the world
He loves so much He gave His Son
To make us lights to shine for Him.

December 4, 2017

The twinkling multi-colored lights upon our tree
Ironically remind me of the stars that sparkled
Overhead above steady Joseph, faithful Mary and
The great I Am growing lively in her womb a fetus
With a beating heart depending for His life upon
Her body’s nurture and her tender, loving care, growing
There inside of her most naturally, the most unnatural
Birth in history—and how brilliant shone the stars that
He had made, and how prettily, unnaturally shine these
Tiny starrish lights upon our tree reminding me here
Within our living room, right here within our hearts abides
Our God, Creator and Remaker, Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

December 6, 2017

For my first tree away from home
I bought some plastic circles
With gold that spanned them all around
Bright colored Christmas pictures
Shining in the light small replica
Stained glass windows, two hang there still
My memories reflecting pure
How He has spanned these years
My reason for this lovely tree and all
Her decorations reflecting
Joy in Him who rests in manger bed
Our Savior come to Earth.

December 7, 2017

Here on our tree is a delicate, a paper
Woven heart, crimson and white, quiet
Amidst the colors glimmering all around
Her for she is delicate, essentially pure.

She whispers while they shout and sing,
Her praises barely heard yet true, sincere,
“He is the very Lamb, the very Lamb of God,
I love Him because His love for me is clear.”

“He is unblemished, see His lovely face
Untouched as yet by any care or fear,
Though He will one day freely give His life
To ransom mine and all that He holds dear.”

December 8, 2017

 We have a miniature, quilted manger scene
Hanging on our Christmas tree, a beautiful
Piece of handiwork stitched with love and faith
Declaring in a winsome way the Good News
Of Christ’s birth—it certainly seems appropriate
That homespun craft and art should harken
Back to such a place where home folk were God’s
Perfect choice to parent His own Son and welcome
Him to earth, while shepherds were His worshippers
There where He lay on the hay—and this small quilt,
It calls me back to join with joy and peace the praise
They raised to Him as they knelt, our God amidst the hay.

December 9, 2017 

On our tree, glistening white crocheted, starched snow flakes
Hang as if fallen from the heavens silent, unique masterpieces
Designed as God has planned a testament to mercy and to grace
And to perfect love delicate yet strong
covering the immensity of sin.

We wonder at His nature’s ingenuity knitting every snowflake’s
Individuality as they dance and pirouette upon the wind until
They at last surrender to the white
which blankets barren ground
With a shimmering and grace-filled loveliness transforming all. 

So as they hang so elegant upon our tree
we remember Him who
Cares for each of us individually with a precision in His plan
For transforming all the emptiness that fills our infested earth
Until there is only His redemptive glory
shining like the snowfall in the night.

 December 10, 2017

Baby Jesus lying in a tomato paste can
Wrapped snug in market wrapper cloth
Upon a bed of scratchy hay—for some this
Ornament upon our tree may seem a blatant
Blasphemy—but I think God is pleased instead
For here is an indigenous tribute plain
To His Son, Immanuel, born to peasant folk
And laid in a manger in Bethlehem,
Though there is no glimmering royalty clear
On this ornament some might label drab or drear,
There is a parable in this tiny can, Messiah’s
Birth suits God’s eternal plan, never man’s.

December 11, 2017 

At the top of our Christmas tree there is a star
Bright white bordered with an African print all
Yellow and red, and though this star has no lights
It shines with the love at Christmas’ heart for Jesus
Name embroidered in green draws our minds
To Heaven above and His birth so normal and filled
With love portrays for us His personal gift, Himself,
From Heaven and all His glory above newborn and
Sleeping on Earth’s rough hay, choosing to live and die
Like each of us to strive with sin’s dark curse everyday
Until He, self-sacrificed for each of us, rose in triumph,
Set us free to live with Him in glory eternally.

December 12, 2017 

The Nigerian angels on our Christmas tree,
Carved in the light, soft wood of the native
Thorn tree, add authenticity to their praise
As angels unaware appear in the flesh—
If these were the angels appearing to shepherds
It would not be their appearance but their
Startling news that would frighten simple
Shepherds content with their sheep out in their
Fields—these are angels solid, worthy, honest
With a message shocking for the ages; there
Is born in their home town, Messiah, their Lord
And in their own manner they see Him in the flesh.

December 13, 2014

These are merely simple paper doves
Tied on our tree with Christmas ribbon
Their pristine white stark amidst the
Green and gold, the silver and the blue,
Declaring clear, unhindered peace secured
By God’s amazing Incarnation
Invasion of light amidst the night
Destroying sin and gloom and sadness,
For He is Love who gives Himself
To reconcile His rebellious world
And make them His own family
Who turn to Him in Faith for Peace. 

December 14, 2017 

We have a miniature Yoruba talking drum upon our tree,
Imagine this drum that sings such tones from village to village
With essential news that deepens
the joy at weddings and at births—
What a fitting symbol for our Savior’s birth—Kings are honored
By this drum’s outburst—the people dance
and they feast and sing,
They bring rich gifts to honor their King
who protects His people
With every power he has, His good is theirs
and their good is His—
The talking drum expresses their joy yet announces their doom
If a tribal war ends with their warriors killed,
their king undone—
A powerful instrument for spreading great news, essential
For survival, treasured for its music, revered for its use.

December 15, 2017

There is so much love upon our tree
My heart and mind are overwhelmed
As tiny lights twinkle beautifully
And the Jesus star at the very top
Hangs like a crown for all to see
Worshiped by angels, shepherds and beasts,
Mary and Joseph, their faithful donkey,
Butterflies, stars and even reindeer—
Miniature stockings for you and me
Promising gifts wrapped, placed below,
God’s Love born in victory,
Hatred defeated, sin overcome.

December 16, 2017

He is kneeling as he hangs upon our tree
Even as his master knelt as starlight shone
Above the stable where they had come
Across the mountains and the plains
Through rivers flowing desserts burning
Seeking One the star foreshadowed,
But to the camel nothing mattered—
Now he had some moments rest while
His master and his fellows knelt in worship
Presenting gifts to give Christ honor—
He, himself? He’s just a camel carved
In soapstone to give Christ honor.

Christmas 2017
Luke 2: 8-20

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over
their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.






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