Nov 27, 2020 08:00am
When a Mess is More than a Mess

The crash. I heard it and set out to find the source of the cracking. I figured another ornament fell victim to a little boy’s game. 

I didn’t expect to see the entire tree on the floor.

Turns out a game of cat and mouse – where the kids are the cat, and the cat is the mouse – left the once gleaming tree in shambles on the ground. 

And the truth is, it left so much more than a mess.

Because the truth is, when the Christmas tree tumbled, it took my heart with it. 

The truth is, this year I’ve struggled. Six new places in six years has caught up with me. Uncertainty storms my soul.

I’m tired. I’m lonely.

While others look forward to Christmas traditions, I grit my teeth and tell myself it’s okay that I’ll sit alone at the Christmas Eve service (if I even show). It’s okay that we’ll be alone Christmas day, again. And it’s okay if I don’t know where we’ll be in a month, or six.

So as we hung ornaments this year I hung my heart with them. Because this tree represents something stable. Something certain. A story of us.

It tells of the newlyweds tucked in, on their own, for a long Cleveland winter. It tells of the news that brought joy mixed with fear when God added that first baby boy years ago. It tells of a Santa who clearly likes to play football and six little elves who God sent to add wonder and thrills to each day. 

And every year for a decade, no matter the place, we’ve lifted the same star atop this story. This year, with the help of her strong daddy, my daughter did the honors.

Stability. Certainty. Peace.

But now it lies in a shattered pile on the floor. Water drained out. Ornaments broken. Pine needles scattered. The star separated and alone. Just like me.

As I tried to move the tree, more ornaments fell. More memories cracked. And I backed off, because I don’t know if I can take one more of something that’s supposed to be beautiful turning into something sharp and painful.

The kids’ concerned questions echoed behind me, “Is Christmas ruined? Will we still have a Merry Christmas?”

And since I’m Mom, and the unspoken super glue that holds the home and the holidays together, I reached down, grabbed hold of the trunk and started lifting. It took two tries for me to admit, I can’t do this alone. Any of it.

“’Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:23 (ESV)

I lowered my head yet lifted my eyes and gathered my troops together. With a shaky voice and heart to match it I stood before them with this,

No! Christmas is not ruined. And Yes! We will have a Merry Christmas. No matter what happens to this tree. Whether we pick it up or throw it away. Whether it shines again or there’s no tree at all, Christmas will not change.

We sat circled by brokenness and disappointment. But my still-weary heart now hung on truth. God is the super glue. God is the certainty. And God is with us.

I enlisted little hands and at the count of three we hoisted our tree back into place. We surveyed the damage left behind and got to work. We trashed the crushed ornaments and stacked the survivors.

As I type this, there’s still a mess to clean up. The tree still feels shaky and I’m not sure if there’s a vacuum big enough to hold all the needles. Lights still run amuck, and the star still sits, separated from its perch.

The scene begs for a re-do . . . This fall just became a fresh start.

“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NLT)

Something tells me I’m not the only one who’s felt lonely or weary or heartbroken. Especially this time of year. Your mess is likely nothing like mine. But maybe you need a fresh start, too? So, I offer you this –

Christmas will never change. Brokenness will not break it. Loneliness won’t lessen it. Uncertainty can’t unravel it.

Will there be messes? Yes. Will we feel alone? Yes. But will we be alone? No.

Because Christmas proclaims Immanuel, God with Us. And on that we hang our hearts. He is something stable. He is something certain. He is Peace.

Copyright © 2020 by Katy McCown @ Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from