From the Book of Exodus:
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Exodus 3:1-6 (NRSV) – January 4, 2013.)
As I read the lesson from Exodus today, there is a bush in my dining room. It’s a four-foot tall evergreen and it’s sort of burning. There are little electrical lights all ablaze all over it. It’s our Christmas tree. (We have a short Christmas tree set on a table because we have three cats. We tried for a couple of years to have a normal size seven-foot tree with these guys, but it was impossible. So, small tree on table.)
If my Christmas tree suddenly started talking, what would it say? (I know the burning bush didn’t talk! It was God speaking “out of the bush.” OK.) Would it call me to a great ministry of leadership? Would it give me an historic prophetic ministry to accomplish? Probably not, I’m not really qualified.
But then, neither was Moses. Consider who he was. He was the child of slaves who was not even supposed to live. Floated down the river in a basket by his slave mother, he’d been found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and reared as a prince. But then he’d blown it by raising his arm in anger and killing a guard. Rather than stick around and defend his action, he’d hidden the dead man’s body and run away. He was a fugitive from the law. He wasn’t particularly well spoken; in a few verses, he will try to decline God’s commission saying, “I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (4:10) He really didn’t want to do what God was telling him to do. “O my Lord, please send someone else,” he pleaded. (4:13) The God who spoke from out of the burning bush would not take “No” for an answer.
I think, perhaps, our Christmas trees do speak to us. Like God speaking to Moses from the burning bush, they call us to important ministries. They call us to ministries of life and love, of family and friends, of generosity and gratitude. They call us to spend time with those who are important to us and with those whom we do not yet know; they call us to give of ourselves and to accept from others the gifts of their being. And like God commissioning Moses, they won’t take “No” for an answer.
(Note to self: Consider writing a Christmas play in which the principal characters are two Christmas trees – Bruce the Spruce and Douglas the Fir . . . . )
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.