As a family we started going to a tree farm to cut down our own Christmas Tree four years ago. The kids were little then; ages six and four. We now look forward to it every year. As we surveyed the hillside for the perfect tree, we narrowed it down to one we really liked. We walked around it, tugged on a branch here and there, sized it up for the space in our living room, kicked the tires, checked the oil, all the things a person does before making a big decision. We agreed, this would be our tree, and we also decided that everyone would get a chance to do some of the sawing. I bent down to get a clear shot at the trunk with the handsaw. The kids laid next to me.
Then we realized we were not alone!
A field mouse jumped out of the tree. My wife Tammie jumped. The kids laughed. Our daughter Mia chased it. She ran down to the hillside where several rocks overlook the valley below. It’s a nice view, but a long way down Tammie chased her so she would not fall. Upon an unsuccessful recovery of the Christmas Tree Mouse, when Mia returned she looked at me wondering just how I could be so cruel as to cut down its home. But the sawing had already begun. This was going to be our tree…and it would be the best Christmas tree ever. It was full, lush, and beautiful. Once we got it home it filled our living room with that fresh tree smell for weeks. It took water well, and lasted a long time. We loved it. Christmas was great. I forgot about the mouse.
The next year we went back to the same tree farm as we have every year since. Mia wanted some time to run around and see if she could look for the Christmas Tree Mouse which we took time to do. She even smuggled some cheese along to give it to the mouse if she found it. She has done this every year since too. And every year, I forget this time-honored tradition.
With the anticipation and expectation of the Peanuts character Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin on Halloween night, Mia packed her piece of cheese before the forty minute drive to the tree farm. Like Linus she sat patiently in the car both realizing the likelihood of meeting the mouse with her cheese was very small, but also hoping that this year, perhaps maybe, she might get to meet that mouse again, and she was prepared for what a wonderful thing it will be when someday that reunion takes place.
Now that is faith!
As we sat on the rocks overlooking the valley at the tree farm, watching the kids run around, and I began to wonder what tree we take home this year, something extraordinary happened. Mia offered me a piece of her cheese. I took and ate it; thanking her for sharing.
“That was a good snack to bring along,” I said to Tammie.
“It was for the mouse you know.”
“The mouse…in the tree…the first year…remember?”
“Right!” I smiled as I remembered, and both kids started chasing one another down the hillside, laughing as they played.
We brought home another beauty tree. The best one yet. But still…no mouse.
Maybe I’ll remember next year.
We are approaching the threshold this Advent of having more days behind us than days ahead until Christmas. In the days that remain I invite you to revisit that joy and excitement of a child. Anticipate – not the disappointment of unfulfilled longings or the lack of others meeting your expectations, but the hopefulness that this year, this Advent, this Christmas, this moment – God is about to do something extraordinary, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be holding on to a piece of cheese (or its equivalent) when Jesus comes. If you have the opportunity…remind someone who has forgotten that joy, and share. Maybe all they really need is a piece of cheese to prompt a smile.
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of his servant Israel, children of Jacob, his chosen ones. He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. Remember his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations. (1 Chronicles 16:8-15)