In January of 1997 a fire broke out in our home. Burned it to the ground. We lost everything, save the night-clothes we were wearing.
We moved out to a farmhouse some church members provided. It came completely equipped with everything we needed for that temporary time.
Since the house that burned was the parsonage, our church, very generously, reworked my salary package, enabling us to buy or build a home. Pam worked hard with some builders in our church to create the home she wanted.
We lived in the farmhouse for most of 1997, moving into our new home in early to mid-December. Though excited, we were exhausted. Then, . . came Christmas. Seriously, we thought, now?
No really, not NOW! What in the world were we going to do about Christmas? We still had nothing really in terms of possessions. We were still dealing with insurance companies. The walls of the house were bare. We had extremely limited furnishings. All Pam and I wanted to do was to lie in bed—(if we had a bed)—and pull the blankets over our eyes—(you know, if we had had a blanket)—and just get up when it was all over. But the kids were 11 and 6. We just couldn’t tell them that we would catch them next time around.
Needless to say, that was our hardest Christmas ever. All the little decorations Pam put on our tree that Kristin and Ryan had made over the years, were gone. The ornaments we had purchased as souvenirs from places we had visited as a family would never be seen again. It was hard on us all. It was still harder for Pam. But my wife is no quitter. I mean, she would have never stayed with . . . uh, forget that thought.
So, one morning, she grabbed her Bible, marched out the door and said, “I will be back later.” And then I thought I heard her say, “Maybe.” But she went out to meet with God. Her story goes: As she was praying, reading her Bible, and crying out to God, He put an idea in her heart. We would put up a tree, not a normal Christmas tree. She would call it a Heaven Tree. She got to work on it right away.
She went out and found the perfect tree and bought it. She purchased cotton that she made into clouds that she hung across the tree. She found some gold tinsel and other gold and white decorations. She also bought some small picture frames that she also painted gold.
She then made phone calls to both sides of our families, requesting they send her pictures of close relatives who passed away in recent years. When they arrived, she then put these pictures into the small gold frames and hung them on the tree as ornaments. Even a few people from our past churches were added to the tree.
Pam’s Heaven Tree was a hit, both with our family and with friends. It was truly a work of art. The community found out about it and requests to see it bombarded us. To this day Pam gives credit for the idea to God. She knows God gave her the idea to help her through that very difficult Christmas Season of 1997.
I share this story with you because, I know, this Christmas will be difficult for some of you. In fact, it may be the most difficult Christmas of your life because of loss or loneliness or grief or general sadness of a myriad of other reasons, because this will be the first Christmas you have gone through without someone or some thing that has always been extra-special.
Yes, there was some sadness as we stood before our Heaven Tree that first year, and in the subsequent years Pam has put it up. But the sadness won’t stay around long because at Christmas we are not just reminded that He came once, but that Jesus is coming again. And in this Second Coming He will right every wrong as He makes all things new. And the sadness born from missing those who have gone one before us, well, they will come with Him. Oh yes, we will be reunited. Yes, we will see them again! Pam’s Heaven Tree . . . it reminds us that Jesus really is, “The Reason for the Season.”
Hoping you have the Best, the Most Blessed of all your Christmases this year, Johnny