A Real Christmas Tree

“He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him.” (Isaiah 53:2, NET)

Christmas, South Texas, 1957. I wanted a Christmas tree—a real one! But we were in year six of the drought. The cold, hard earth—its surface crazed like a piece of old pottery with cracks on cracks, held together by a crumbling allegiance of granular borders—gray and lifeless.

Not a blade of grass from the toes of your boots to the horizon. Certainly not a place to find a Christmas tree. Everything had died years ago.

Well, almost everything.

Mesquite trees survived the great drought. We have a word for these oversized thorn-bushes: “pesky.” Chop one down, and in the spring you will find a sprig, a slender shoot popping up from the stump you cut down, poisoned, then burned just to make sure it was dead.

Israel’s enemies had conspired for hundreds of years to cut her down to size. By the time of Jesus’ birth, the nation was in a spiritual drought. Promises of a coming righteous Branch (see Jeremiah 23:5), a Messiah, were seven hundred years old, and felt as empty as the desert wind. But the house of David is like a mesquite tree. Thorny, resilient. Pesky. And God’s promises have deep roots.

The Lord Jesus, the promised Branch of David, grew up in the backwater village of Nazareth (from the Hebrew word for “branch”). He was inconspicuous. Socially, He didn’t amount to a hill of (mesquite) beans. But He was tough. He was resilient. And His roots stretched back to eternity.

Folks who are unfamiliar with wood tend to disregard mesquite due to its lack of stately form, its absence of majesty. It simply doesn’t catch your attention. But if you’re a woodworker, you know that in the heartwood of this most inconspicuous of trees is a gift waiting to be discovered. Wrapped in thorns. Hard as nails. A gift that will rise again, even after it’s been cut down.

Now that’s a real Christmas Tree!