The Rainbow Christmas Tree

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IMG_0522 Rainbow Christmas Tree

In this sixth part of “Jensi’s Story,” a child’s drawing inspires Jensi to write a poem about God’s desire that we care for creation and love our neighbor.

While visiting her great-aunt Elizabeth, Jensi noticed a yellowing piece of paper enclosed behind the glass of a picture frame. On the paper was a sketch of a Christmas tree, with a rainbow sitting atop the tree.

Jensi asked, “Aunt Beth, this Christmas tree, with the rainbow at its peak: Who drew it?”

Elizabeth smiled and replied, “I did, when I was seven years old. My grandfather asked me to make it. He said he wanted the rainbow atop the tree because tree and rainbow together remind him of God’s mercy for the world. The Christmas tree, he said, celebrated Christ’s birth, while also drawing attention to the tree of the cross on which Jesus died, as well as the tree of life in the book of Revelation with its leaves of healing for all the nations.

“My grandfather said that the rainbow reminded him of two important stories Christians tell. The first story is God’s promise to Noah to care for creation. As a sign of that promise, God placed a rainbow in the sky. And the rainbow’s many colors he said, point to a second story: God’s love for all the peoples of the earth, a love we see coming to the world in the birth of Jesus. He told me that when he was a child he had learned this song:

          Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world;

         Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight;

         Jesus loves the little children of the world.

         Ev’ry color, ev’ry race, they are covered by his grace,

         Jesus loves the little children of the world.

“Wow,” said Jensi, “that’s pretty neat. I like it.” And with her cell phone, she snapped a photo of the Rainbow Christmas Tree

And over the next several days, Jensi kept thinking about that Tree. She realized that it pointed to two of the things that the voice of Jesus said her child would do: encourage people to care for creation, and create bridges of understanding among people who differed from one another. As Jensi pondered these things, she found herself writing a poem, which when completed went like this.

The Rainbow Christmas Tree                    
Is a reminder of God’s intention   
To cherish the life of all creation.

In the Noah Story,
God looked, and felt deep grief at what he saw:
An earth made for beauty and harmony

Was not in unity. 
Evil ran deeply in harsh and hard hearts;
Foul mouths spoke aloud the mind’s ugly thoughts. 

Bullying—war—abuse—
Violence—terror—greed filled ev’ry land,
And God regretted the work of his hand.
 
So in deep grief God said,
“No more. It cannot continue this way;
I will end it, and begin a new day. 

“I will destroy it all,
Except for Noah, his kin, and a pair
Of every living creature of earth.” 

The rain came, the flood rose,
And all died in the water’s raging dark
Except those who were safely in the ark.

But now God felt new grief.
God said, “Toward evil human hearts are bent;
Yet the answer is not the flood I sent. 

“Never again will I 
Destroy my whole creation. As a sign
Of my pledge to people and all creatures 

I set a bow in sky,
A reminder to be gentle with earth,
To seek a better way for life’s rebirth.”

In the fullness of time,
God decided the better way would be 
The birth of his Son, the Nativity. 

In the Christmas story 
A young Galilean girl hastens off
To visit an old Judean woman. 

Angels come to two men:
An old priest offering the ancient rites,
A carpenter asleep after day’s work. 

And to shepherds, thought by
Many to be unclean, with uncouth views,
Comes a surprise announcement of good news. 
 
But the greatest surprise 
Is the foreigners who come from afar,
Scientists who were guided by a star 

To see the new born king.
With faces odd, with clothes and accents strange,
They enter the house: Mary welcomes them. 
 
In the Christmas story 
Male, female, native, alien, young, old,
Religious, secular: All hear good news.
 
These of Christ’s birth story
Foreshadow Jesus’ coming ministry
Of embracing the world’s diversity.  

That’s why the rainbow sits
Atop the tree. It is a sign that God’s 
Love is not given for one kind alone.  

The Rainbow Christmas Tree
Roots us deeply in Messiah Jesus,
Calling us to partner in God’s good work.

Thus we pay attention 
To the beauty of the natural world,
And seek to treat it gently and kindly.

We protect open land;
We preserve endangered species, valuing 
Them because they are created by God. 

Taught by birds of the air,
We live simply, content with daily bread,
Striving to keep our carbon footprint low.
 
We support policies 
That keep air clean, rivers pure, streams sparkling,
Fields fruitful, fish spawning, forests growing.
 
We are people of the 
Rainbow Christmas Tree, called to bear good fruit,
Caring for the gifts of God’s creation.
 
As people of the Tree,
We also seek to love one another,
Whatever our race, gender, or color. 
 
Heeding John’s warning word,
We beware the danger of too highly
Exalting our own kind. So we humbly

Attempt to build bridges
With those we may not know nor understand.
Through listening and through conversation
 
We seek common respect 
Among gay and straight; Hispanic, black, white;
Liberal, conservative, moderate.
 
We build relationships 
Between atheists and Christians and Jews,
Among Moslems, and Buddhists, and Hindus. 
 
The prophet Isaiah 
Spoke of a time lion and lamb will lie down
Together in peace. We yearn for that day.

Walking the Jesus’ Way,
We use our minds, and our skills, and our wealth
To support causes promoting civic health. 

We oppose any “ism”
That would divide or tear people apart,
For such actions bring grief to God’s holy heart.

The Rainbow Christmas Tree 
Reminds us of God’s commitment to earth,
His desire for its ever-new re-birth.

May the Rainbow Christ Tree
Inspire us to value creation,
As well as peoples of ev’ry nation.

                                                      Amen.

Lent Devotion, March 17, 2017

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It was time for Clint to say a few words. He said, “I wasn’t raised in the church, and had no religious background. When I met Matt, he told me how he had been rejected by the congregation in which he grew up. He was hurt, but I could also see he really missed the connection to others and to God that the church had provided him. He told me he wished he could find a church that accepted him, but was too scared to even try.

“Well, one day we were driving down the road in front of St. Barnabas. I suddenly slammed on the breaks, and started backing up. Matt asked, ‘What are you doing?’

I said, ‘Did you see that?’

“‘See what?’ he said.

“‘That rainbow.’

“‘It hasn’t rained in days. How could we see a rainbow?’

“‘No, not a real one in the sky. But the rainbow sign above the door of that church. I want to check it out.’

“So while Matt stayed in the car, I ran inside. I came back with the church’s welcome brochure which said, ‘All people are welcome at St. Barnabas: of every race, gender, nationality, and sexual orientation. Please join us we gather to celebrate Jesus’ love for all people.’

“So we decided to give St. Barnabas a try.”

           Thank you, God, for congregations that welcome everyone. Amen.