Elements of this story have been kicking around for years; not only is it one of my favorites, but it gets updated every Advent. This year’s twist may be one of the best.
The story started somewhere around 2005, when my friend Tim brought home an endearingly freakish Christmas tree ornament from a gift exchange (the handcrafted Rudolph was wearing a tutu, and draped with a feather boa). The immediately dubbed “Stripper Reindeer” unwittingly captured our imaginations, initiating an ongoing quest for tacky, grotesque, vulgar, tasteless – yet at the same time irresistibly charming – companions for the original.
After several years, Tim and Kelly found the growing collection their own tree. It’s a curiosity and a great conversation starter (maybe even a statement piece of performance art?). But most of all it’s a vivid – and I really do mean vivid! – reminder that we love them, as well as a tribute to the wonderful lady who purchased the original reindeer, oblivious to the chain of events it would precipitate.
This year’s ornament – 2016 – is pictured above.
SOCIAL COMMENTARY? What makes today a great time to update the story is the fact that, this year, our friends chose this tree for the location of their Nativity. I’m not sure if it originated as a deliberate act of social commentary, but the more I look at the grainy cellphone picture Kelly sent me, the more convinced I am that this is a strong message for America today.
“Somehow our Derek and Rebekah Tree of Awesomeness absolutely belongs next to a Nativity set,” Kelly wrote. “I feel like that is completely liturgically correct.”
“Jesus came for all the ornaments,” I replied.
And the more I think about it, the more appropriate that feels. There is still too much of 21st Century Christianity that keeps a list of entrance requirements for those they believe are worthy of the Kingdom of God. But the message of Jesus, from the very beginning, has always been that of invitation, of inclusion, of unconditional love, of the open door.
Maybe you are one of those people who feels excluded when it comes to the reach of God’s love? Don’t be, you’re not. Don’t ever accept that proposition. Jesus came for you. The invitation is wide open. Redemption is for absolutely everyone.
There is no prejudice, no prejudgement, no stigma, no circumstance, no sin, no disappointment, no grief, no misunderstanding – not anything – that can keep us away from the reach of God’s love in Jesus.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39
Jesus came for all the ornaments. Jesus comes for every one of us. Merry Christmas. – DEREK