Weekly Devotional

November 29, 2017

by Alan Barkema


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For as long as I can remember, decorating my family’s Christmas tree has been one of my favorite holiday traditions. Last Saturday afternoon, my family and I found this year’s tree, hauled it home on top of our car, and wrestled it into our tree stand. Now the tree is standing in our living room, bedecked with glowing lights, bright ornaments, and lots of memories of Christmases and Christmas trees past.

My memory of trees past reaches to the days when I was growing up in northern Iowa. Each year my family would seek the “perfect” Christmas tree. Usually that task fell to my mother, sister and me after school on a cold December evening. We would sort through layers of recently cut trees, their trunks stuck in the snow and branches leaning against an outside wall of a local grocery store. The trees were usually in rough shape, flattened from being stuffed in a tight truck load for the long haul from some tree farm in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan.

My job was to shake accumulated snow and ice from any tree that looked promising, try to fluff its branches into a more natural stance, and then hold the tree upright for inspection. We evaluated each tree carefully for vitally important characteristics such as appropriate height and diameter, a straight trunk, and evenly spaced branches with no voids. The trees were hard to see clearly in December’s early evening gloom, and our enthusiasm for finding the best tree of the lot gradually diminished as we inspected tree after tree in the bone-chilling cold of the Iowa winter. Long before we’d make our final selection, we would come to accept a minor crook in the trunk, a missing branch or two, or some other imperfection.

Every year, after the tree was decorated and standing in our living room, we would declare the tree to be the best ever, regardless of whatever imperfections we’d overlooked in the cold of the grocery store parking lot. We’d recognize a crooked trunk or a missing branch as part of the tree’s natural beauty, enhanced by the bright lights and shiny ornaments of the season. A lot has changed since my boyhood in northern Iowa, but like my family’s Christmas trees then, the tree we found and decorated last Saturday is the best ever.

Creator God, in the excitement and joy of the Christmas season, help us to look past imperfections to find the beauty hidden in each of us and all around us.

Alan and Judi Barkema joined Saint Andrew in 2015. Their daughter Karen is a freshman at Iowa State University and son Kyle is a senior at Missouri State University. Alan can be reached at adbarkema@gmail.com.