Alyssa Sellers

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Remembering That I Forget

My Christmas Tree ~ Portland, Oregon 2012

I live in that magical land where Christmas trees grow. Oregon is the nation’s biggest producer of Christmas trees and harvested over 6 million in 2011 and , sadly, I did not purchase one of them. Last year, I thought I was broke and would be gone too long in December to purchase a tree. This year I have a whole new appreciation for broke-ness and will be away from my home for a week but I am not letting this deter me.  My friend Belinda, a graduate student at Portland State, offered to drive me to a Christmas tree farm just outside the city to pick up a tree and to celebrate the completion of her finals.

As soon as I stepped out of the vehicle and onto the parking lot, I knew I made the right decision. The smell of Fir trees enveloped me and I shouted, “I LOVE CHRISTMAS TREES!” Thankfully it was a rainy Tuesday afternoon and no one else was around.

Belinda and I set out in search of this year’s perfect tree. When I first saw my tree, I impulsively burst into, “O Tannenbaum!” However, not wanting to make a hasty choice, I tied a bright red bag to a branch and walked on. Eventually after much deliberation, I chose the tree that inspired my song.

I spent the better part of a day decorating this tree; mostly because I’m a perfectionist but also because I’m sentimental. As I unwrapped ornaments that had been unfairly confined for two years, vivid memories flooded my consciousness and I remembered the refrain from a song we sang during worship service on Sunday:

Though the world may see and soon forget
We will not forget who you are and what you’ve done for us.

But do we? Do we really remember? I believe that humanity as a whole is fairly forgetful and this is why God instructs us in all sorts of reminders like the celebration of Passover, hauling rocks from the dry bottom of the Jordan River to create an altar and participation in communion. These acts remind us of what God has done and reinforce for us the promises of what God will do.

This year, decorating my Christmas tree, was one of those reminders. As I hung up the lights, circled the tree with a garland made of old silver Mardi Gras beads and placed ornaments on branches, I could not help but to recall specific things God has done for me and as I remembered I began to feel joyful anticipation for all of the things God is going to do. This, my friends, is worshiping fully.

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So This Is Christmas

Pioneer Square ~ December 7, 2011

I entered corporate America through a coordinator position in the Human Resources department of a call center. It was as cog-like as it sounds. Although, I did work with some really great people so it wasn’t all that bad. Shockingly, one of the treasures I took away from that season of my life, aside from some unbelievable stories, was a corporate practice: set and manage expectations. I’ve come to realize that most of my disappointments are from misguided personal expectations, not because of actual poor results.

When I think about it, improper expectations seem to be the story of a lot of lives. The serpent got to Eve through misguided expectations, “He won’t actually kill you…” and the whole Christmas situation is another incredible example.  Jesus’s arrival on the scene is NOT how scholars expected the salvation of the world to come. They expected a fearsome warrior, not a helpless baby born in a barn to some poor worker hailing from the backwater of Galilee.

Proper punctuation.
Improper expectation.

So I guess out of all the Christmas traditions, disappointment resulting from improperly set expectations is one of the more authentic. Everywhere I go I am inundated with messages about what my expectations for this season should be. I should feel like this really is the most wonderful time of the year.  I should resign myself to the fact that it just ain’t Christmas because I don’t have a one to love, however, should Christmas miraculously still occur, it will be blue.

Meanwhile back in the original Christmas story, the shepherds have left and the family is taking Jesus to the temple where they meet a man named Simeon. Now, Simeon, this is a man with properly set expectations. He was moving with the Holy Spirit and when this baby Jesus shows up he knows instantly that this is the one he has been waiting for; God’s promised salvation.

I kind of love that Simeon’s reaction was to immediately burst out in praise. In my head, this praise is a song and this song is a sweet little remix of a popular 33 BC classic.

Simeon had a super close relationship with God. In that relationship, God made a promise to Simeon. Because Simeon believed without misguided personal expectation he was able to recognize the promise when it arrived then rejoice in it. Properly managed expectations are a pretty marvelous thing.