Okay, so I’ve finally done it. I packed up Christmas this week. To me, putting away all of my ornaments is akin to saying good-bye to old friends I won’t see for a long time, so I put it off as long as possible.
Some of my “friends” are Depression-era plastic ornaments from my grandmother’s collection: a few balls with Christmas scenes molded into them—reindeer, snowmen, and even a nativity and three kings—and a few metallic looking lace bells. There is a small plastic bag with metal beads in varying shapes and multiple colors. They come from a small strand of beads that used to grace my grandmother’s Christmas tree. For many years I hung that small strand of beads on my tree to remind me who I am and where I came from, and that family is important. Although they have long since come apart, and many have lost their color, they still hold the memory of Christmases long past.
When I bought my own Christmas ornaments I purchased some like the ones that had graced my mother’s tree, glass ornaments with metallic-painted insets that reflected the lights in the room. So many of those are broken and gone now. I still have a few that, when I look at them, take me back to Christmases around the silver tree with the tracks around the bottom, watching my brother shift the transformer to make the train move while the floor light shone on the tree, turning it blue, then green, yellow, and red as its lenses rotated.
There in my collection, as I pack them up, I look at the commemorative ornaments purchased each year. There are the ornaments made by my children each year in elementary school, the pictures from each year as they have grown, and the first Christmas ornaments I designed and cross-stitched for each of their first celebrations. Last, but not least, I wrapped the “Precious Moments” nativity figures my sister-in-law Debbie painted for me.
All of my ornaments, they are my treasure, not just because they are pretty, but because they each represent a time in my life, people in my life, and blessings I have received from God. They are precious to me, more than my teenagers would understand, so it is my job to say good-bye until next year. Okay, so it isn’t good-bye, maybe just “see you later.”
That done, I ran to the grocery store to pick up some things for supper and, getting out of the car, my ring caught on my sweater. Looking down, to my surprise, there was my anniversary band, with three stones on one side, three stones on the other, and the center mounting sitting empty and dark. I was devastated! I looked around the car. Not there. When I got home I looked all around the house, but I didn’t find it. Then, I knew I would have to do it. I had to unpack my boxes of Christmas to see if it had fallen in one of them.
As I unpacked the nativity figures, I thought to myself, Wouldn’t it be funny if I found the stone wrapped up with the manger and the Baby Jesus? That would make a great illustration: Finding your treasure in God. I didn’t find the stone in the two boxes of Christmas decorations. It, too, is an old friend I may not see again.
When November comes returns, and I go down to the basement to dig through the boxes, I hope I will find my friends, my memory keepers, there to grace my tree. But if I don’t, I will still have my memories. And I will still have my treasure. By then, hopefully, I will have found or replaced the stone on my anniversary band. But even without the stone, even if I don’t ever wear the ring again, I still have my marriage and my family, treasures the ring represents.
Where is my treasure? Even though I didn’t find the stone to my anniversary band wrapped up with the Baby Jesus, my treasure still resides there, not in the hand-painted ceramic, but in the Christ who saved my life. Where is faith? Where is hope? It is in knowing my Redeemer lives, and so I live because of Him.
Jesus taught his disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:32-34, emphasis mine).
Although each of the ornaments and beads and figurines represent a treasure in my life, making them important, I must guard my heart against becoming so attached to my treasures that I forget their purpose, to remind me of the blessings of God in my life, of the people sent my way, of the family God has created.
We all have treasures. But, you see, treasures can be deceiving, and often are. And when our treasures become our focus, when they become the goal in themselves, our lives head in a direction far away from where God would ever want us to be.
A few weeks ago, a friend talked about being a young mother. She wanted her kids to have everything they wanted, to be involved in the activities they chose, and so she worked, and worked, and worked to make ends meet. She thought she was doing what was right so the kids could be happy, but years later her daughter told her what they really needed was her presence with them, not her money.
Where are you laying down treasure? And what if it were all carried away in one fell swoop, maybe in a flood or a tornado, how would you survive? How would you carry on without your “things”?
God, please help me, each day, to recognize all the things that I put before you, to fix my priorities beyond all the shiny trinkets and treasures that catch my eye, the job that gives me status, the home that makes my friends jealous. Help me see what things are truly treasures: my faith, my salvation, my future with you, and the lives of your people and those whom you are calling to faith in you?
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor