Putting the star on top of the Christmas tree is the greatest honor in yuletide decorating. Oh sure the lights are important, but there are a million lights. They’re a dime a dozen. And ornaments? Don’t even get me started. Who’s going to notice where you hang one of dozens of ornaments on your festive evergreen?
But the star? C’mon, that’s the top dog. The big cheese. The head honcho. There’s only one tree topper, and only one person can put it in place. That person pretty much dominates the entire hall decking operation.
At least that’s how my daughters saw it when they were little. That’s why we had to establish an orderly system for them to take turns each year as the designated star hanger. My wife even went so far as to put a note in the box with our Christmas star to remind us who had the distinction of hanging the star the previous year. That way there would be no dispute as to who was up to bat this holiday season.
But no matter who’s turn it was, they wouldn’t have made it very far without their dad. Every year I had the privilege of hoisting the star hanger up on my shoulders and helping her reach the top of the tree she could never reach on her own. I was happy to serve as the ladder to give my girls the chance to shine.
Unfortunately, each year, they needed me less and less, but I refused to relinquish my post. When my oldest daughter turned twelve, we almost fell into the Christmas tree as I staggered around with her on my back trying to hang the star. She didn’t actually need me by this point at all. She could have easily just stood on a chair, but it was our Christmas tradition.
After the tree incident of 2017, she swore she would never do it again . . . until two years later, when I somehow managed to talk her into it. I told her I’d been lifting weights to get ready. I’d been stretching. I was prepared. She could count on me. The reality was I just didn’t want to admit my little girl was growing up. She didn’t need her dad to help her reach the top of the Christmas tree or anything else.
But still she humored me. She hopped on my back. No problem, I thought. I can do this. Then I heaved her up to my shoulders, and that was a different story. Lift with your legs, I kept telling myself. Lift with your legs! I had her up there just long enough for her to reach out and plop the star on the tree before I had to drop her. The star was cockeyed, dangling precariously from the tip of the highest branch. We had done it, but just barely.
I hated to admit it but my aching back told me it was time to retire from the star hanging business. My daughters were going to need something stronger and sturdier than their dad to help them reach the top.
Sometimes in life we all rely on things that may work for us for a while, but eventually let us down. Whether it’s a job, a relationship, achievements, possessions or even our health, the things of this world have a tendency to fall short of meeting our deepest needs. It’s not that these things are bad, but they were never meant to satisfy our souls, and they certainly don’t last forever. If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s that life is unpredictable.
What we need is something bigger and stronger that can carry us through all the seasons of life. We need someone whose strength never fails. Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, a messenger for God named Isaiah described just such a person:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
-Isaiah 9:6 NIV
Jesus came into the world to make a way for us to return to a God who is big enough and strong enough to carry the burdens we were never meant to shoulder alone. So if you need help this Christmas hanging a tree topper, I’d recommend using a sturdy chair, but for your deeper needs, turn to Jesus. His shoulders are strong enough to never let you down.
For more encouragement for the Christmas season, check out Holiday Road: A Christmas Devotional.