category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 27

Friday, December 24

Isaiah 52: 7–10; Psalm 98;  Hebrews 1: 1–12; John 1:1–14

It was an unlovely tree in an unlikely place with an unmistakable message. The tree sat on a hill along Interstate 30 just outside of Fort Worth, Texas—a mimosa tree that seemed lifeless, except at Christmas. Each December, for over thirty years, the homeless Christmas tree (as it was known) was decorated, its scrawny limbs bearing a few ornaments and garland.

According to a December 2003 article in USA Today, the tree sat on an isolated hill lacking other vegetation, making the existence of the tree a bit of a mystery. “When gardener Neil Sperry first spotted the tree, he was surprised because a mimosa tree should not be growing in such a place. ‘It’s just a God thing when a tree grows where it’s not supposed to grow,’ he said.”

The original decorator was a homeless woman whose health prevented her from the task for several years so other hands carried on the work. Although motorists never noticed a single leaf on the tree, every December life would blossom in the form of Christmas decorations. Jodi Hodges, a member of the Texas Department of Transportation, acknowledged that the decorations technically were not permitted on state property. Hodges said, “We have motorists call in thanking us for the tree, and we have nothing to do with it. It’s just a mystery. It’s just a tree mysterious people decorate. It gives us hope” (Jennifer Briggs, “Fort Worth’s Forlorn Tree Inspires I-30 Commuters,” 12/23/03).

This Christmas Eve we celebrate the hope manifested in the birth of an unlikely child who came to this earth in an unlikely place with an unmistakable message. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (9:6-7). Likewise, the Apostle Paul beautifully summarizes the unmistakable message of Christmas in one verse: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to us all” (Titus 2:11).

Last December (2020), the mimosa tree vanished a few days after Christmas—someone cut it down. No one knows who or why. Only a few ornaments remained on the ground. Still, there are those who have hope of seeing a tree on that hill again.

The grace of God that appeared on that holy night also teaches us to wait for “the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). And on that day, we will say with the Psalmist, “The Lord is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. … Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming” (96:10, 12-13).

Tracy Jessup
Vice President for Christian Life and Service and Senior Minister to the University

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