Christmas came right on the heels of the 4th Sunday of Advent this year – and in fact, we were celebrating Christmas on Sunday with C’s family out in the country.
In good ol’ East Texas fashion, we set a tree on fire. Literally. There was a dead tree on the land that needed to be gotten rid of, and the powers that be decided it made sense to kill two birds with one stone by making this dead tree the location of the family’s annual Christmas bonfire. The men piled up branches and other shrubs at the base of the tree earlier on Sunday, and then once the sun went down, we all went out and had a grand time watching the tree burn.
The image of the tree catching fire of course recalls the story in Exodus 3 when Moses encounters God in the form of a burning bush. The Lord says to Moses:
I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
God saw their afflictions and heard their cries and knew their sufferings. And he did not just stand by, but he delivered them from their anguish, he freed them from their captivity.
What a beautiful foreshadowing of the coming of Christ into our world. God sent his son – our Savior, Jesus Christ – into this world because he saw our affliction, he heard our cries, and he knew our suffering. And ultimately, through Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, we are offered a deliverance even greater than the deliverance that came to the Israelites. A deliverance from the brokenness, the fear, and the hurt in this world. A deliverance to peace, to grace – and to life.
That is what we celebrate today, and that is the hope we cling to throughout the year.