One is in our living room. My wife loves to decorate this ten foot tree with white lights, delicate burgundy ribbons, glittering crystal ornaments, and pretty things with names like Waterford and Swarovski.
Precious Moments, Snow Babies, ballerinas and sparkling Fleur de Lis lend an air of sophistication. Gold and glitter cause the tree to gleam and glisten when light strikes the tree from any angle. It is truly beautiful.
Everyone in the family calls it the “fancy tree”. It’s the tree everybody wants to look at. I am always in awe when Dianne finishes this grand tree.
Many of the decorations were made by the little hands of our now grown children. Faded and worn, these treasures unearth warm and wonderful moments that were like oases along the trek through the hard times of life.
Other trinkets that hang on the tree have very particular meaning–from Baby’s first Christmases to new houses to favorite pastimes.
Each year some new ornaments are added reflecting a few of the favorite things for different family members. Tiny drum sets and guitars for our sons; bikinis and shopping bags for our daughter; pencils and apples for my school-teacher wife; computers, golf balls and wine bottles for me.
Add in the grandchildren and you get soccer balls, fishing gear, sports teams…and an alphabet of ornaments stamped with initials.
We all call it the “family tree”. It’s the tree everyone wants to help trim.
I absolutely love this funky little tree so crowded with a menagerie of memories. While it doesn’t contain the fancy and more costly beauty of the formal tree, it has something no amount of crystal and glitter can match.
It has what we call in my world of stock market analysis, “intrinsic value”.
Intrinsic value is the worth inherent to what is being analyzed. It is actual, accurate value–what that item is really worth. This assessment is based on the value of the object itself plus the esteem placed on that object by the appraiser.
The beauty of our family tree is in the vast and deep parts of us that it contains. It isn’t fancy and attractive like the big tree, but its value far outweighs its ritzy counterpart.
Its worth is in what it holds.
I was reflecting on this while setting up our trees over this unique weekend merging Thanksgiving and Advent. Enjoying beautiful holiday music, I was caught off guard by a phrase in one of the most familiar Christmas hymns, O Holy Night.
“…til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
Though I have heard it hundreds of times, this year the lyric stopped me in my tracks..
Just like our little family tree, each of us has intrinsic value.
Our worth to the heart of God is incalculable.
When Jesus appeared, God was demonstrating how valuable we are to Him. The Son of God validated that we, even in our fractured and broken condition, are vessels of clay that contain the heart and soul of His-story.
From before time, the Father has been writing the story of man, the apex of His creation, living life as the “image of God”. In fact, all of creation is waiting like a pregnant mother come to term for the dream of God to be palpably manifested and visibly demonstrated in us.
The Son came to show us what the image of God in man looked like and to enable us to live it in the rub and reality of life as it is.
“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” (John 1:18)
Jesus came as the panoramic, cinematic vision of who we are and how God feels about us. The work of His life was to rescue and restore the understanding of our intrinsic value as those created “Imago Dei”.
Jesus is what God looks like when He looks like us.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Advent is about the coming of God to this planet in person. That Coming was the full demonstration of His extreme, fiery, passionate and unconditional love for each of us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” (John 3:16a)
When we wrap our minds and hearts around that intrusive incarnation–God loves us and there is nothing we can do about it–then our souls feel their worth.
And only then.
Without that understanding we are fancy trees garnering attention with the glitz and glitter of life lived in the extrinsic value calculated in what we possess, who we know and how we appear.
When defined by externals, our souls feel worthless.
Nothing else in all creation unveils the true value of the human soul–the deep, visceral part of who we are created to be–except the manger. The costly, priceless appraisal of our place in God’s heart can only be seen through the eyes of shepherds and wise men.
Our significance is wrapped in swaddling clothes.
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7)
Only in the radical good news of God in a manger can we fully comprehend our true estimation. So this Advent I want to dive deep into the well of His grace and truth.
I am determined to find my life’s value etched on the walls of a stable in Bethlehem.
He appeared…my soul feels its worth.