“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
4 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
5 “How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
your dwelling places, Israel!
6 “Like valleys they spread out,
like gardens beside a river,
like aloes planted by the Lord,
like cedars beside the waters.
7 Water will flow from their buckets;
their seed will have abundant water.
“Their king will be greater than Agag;
their kingdom will be exalted.
- Numbers 24:3b-7
The scripture is the first part of the third message pronounced by Balaam, son of Beor. He was supposed to be cursing the Israelites, but after his ‘donkey’ spoke to him (Numbers 22:21-41), he wouldn’t dare do that. Notice in Numbers 24:6 that the kingdom of Israel will be like cedars beside the waters. Does that remind you of Christmas trees? One year, when I was small, we had a cedar Christmas tree. The entire house smelled so good.
While the people of Israel have grown into a great nation, the spiritual family of Abraham extends to all believers through Jesus Christ. We are like cedars growing along the banks of the river.
Our Christmas tree, in the photo, hasn’t grown. It’s artificial, but at least we haven’t done like my empty-nester parents did. They placed a six inch tall Christmas Tree replica on my mother’s piano. That was only to avoid the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren complaining. Their explanation was, “There was no room for presents under the tree, so don’t bother sending us any.” The “Bah Humbug” was always silent, but implied. While I find the commercial side of Christmas distressing, tiring, and inappropriate, the only reason why there will be less under the tree this year is due to the higher cost of shipping. No family lives near us.
After I took the picture, I saw an accidental history of our lives.
The Christmas Tree: It’s a four foot artificial tree that we’ve used ever since we became empty nesters (almost). Our younger son took a long time in actually moving out for good. It is decorated with angels, but a few extra things including a few German chocolate ornaments. One extra ornament, the Sinterklaas, will be highlighted next Tuesday on 5 December. As for the angels, angels played a dominant role in my wife’s “all in” moment. They are real, people, but they may not appear with a halo and a long robe and wings. They might actually appear in a bowler hat and wearing an old, out-of-date suit with spats. I don’t know, just saying.
The folded US Flag: It was draped over my father’s casket. When the funeral home went through the flag folding ceremony and handed the flag to my mother, I nearly started crying. I never actually cried when my brother, father, and mother died over a four month span. The thought when the flag was passed was who would get the flag next. Then my brother-in-law, a veteran himself, gave me the flag when my mother died. It will be on display for both my wife’s and my funerals. We are both veterans. The words spoken will be different, possibly, since my wife is a Vietnam Era veteran in the Air Force and I was Army serving my active duty time immediately afterwards.
The Photos (may be cropped on some devices): Behind the gold wire angel to the right of the flag (the angel is too heavy to place on such a small tree), is a three photo set, but only half of the middle photo is visible. It is a picture of my wife’s parents, and Moeder Molly can be seen. She died earlier this year a little over a month after her 91st birthday. She had been our children’s last living grandparent. There will be more about her on Monday.
The Hard Hat: Of course, I had to have a hat in the photo. I hope it is my last hard hat. It’s filthy due to my last major project. The filth has been left as a reminder. The shiny oval is an AIST sticker. I gave two presentations for their conferences.
Christmas is the culmination of the Advent season. In Advent, churches focus too much, in my opinion, on remembrances like those above. They focus on the birth of the Christ Child. Advent is a time of expectation, not for presents under the tree, but we should have anticipation of a fully grown Jesus returning on a white horse, with fire in His eyes. I don’t know if I have ever heard an Advent sermon with Revelation 19 as the text.
As for my wife and I, we are starting to clean up the house in anticipation of both sons, with families, arriving in March, but we also want to simplify our lives. If Jesus is about to return, we need to be ready to go. The sky will open and the angels with Jesus might say, “It’s time to Bug Out!” Fellow veterans will know what that means.