Every other year as a kid, we would find the biggest, most beautiful Christmas tree that fit in our living room. Whether it was from the tree farm down the street, or whether we’d clomp with our grandpa through the East Kansas woods to find the perfect tree to cut down, tie onto our car and drive it back to Kansas City, that year was always about the fullest, greenest tree we could get our hands on.
Then there was the other year. On the off year, our mission couldn’t have been more different: We wanted the tree with the giant bare patch. The scragglier, the better. This year was for the ugly tree, the tree no one else wanted, the tree no one else would ever take.
The tree farms usually didn’t even charge us. They looked embarrassed as they loaded it on our car.
We called it our Charlie Brown Christmas tree, after the pathetic little tree Charlie Brown gets in that famous Christmas special.
I’m not sure when we started that tradition, but I can tell you that, as kids, those were our favorite years. We wore that ugly tree as a badge of pride – and our search for the ugliest, most unloved tree was intense. My mom was a good sport about it, bearing as she did the burden of explaining to holiday house guests the abomination lurking in the corner of our living room every other year.
We loved that tree because it was a reminder in the midst of our Christmas celebration that Christmas is more than gifts and cookies and lights.
The heartbeat of the Christmas story is the surprise that God came into the world in a way no one could’ve expected or predicted. When God came to us, God came as a poor, outcast baby. He came not to a palace in the center of the world, but to the edges, to the margins. So we’re going to talk about smallness today, about impossibility, about all of us who sort of feel a little like those Charlie Brown trees by this time of the year.