“You’re going to fall and kill yourself!” my Grandmother shrieked, “You come down out of that tree right this instant, Melissa! I MEAN IT!”
From high up in the branches of my favorite birch tree at Dunsmore Park, I could see her tiny shadow beneath me, and I could hear from the tone of her voice that she was upset. Grandma hated it when I climbed a tree - any tree - she was always afraid I would slip and fall to my certain doom.
But for some reason, her fears didn’t stop me. I was never afraid at all. I climbed every tree with branches low enough to swing up into, in every single park and meadow and camp we ever visited. Oaks and aspens and cedars and pines, and anything and everything in between - I climbed them all. I craved the feeling of climbing higher and higher. The higher I got, the greater the adventure, and the better I felt. I couldn’t wait to see what the view would be like. And I loved the solitude of sitting high up above everything, away from all the noise, in a place where I could just think and be. A place where nobody could reach me at all. Because no matter how hard my 3 younger siblings and 5 younger cousins tried to follow, they could never, ever climb as high as me. My climbing trees were the places I could go to get away from everyone.
But there was always One person who did follow me. There was One person I couldn’t out-climb, couldn’t escape from, couldn’t hide away and be unseen by. No matter how high I climbed, He followed me. Even when I climbed the highest pine tree in the forest at Camp Cedar Falls, up to the skinny branches that started to bend and feel thin, when I could feel the sway of the wind and even stick my head right out the top of the enormous tree - even there? He followed me!
Do you know who that person was? It was God. The Bible teaches us in Psalm 139 that there isn’t anywhere in the world that we can go to get away from God’s presence - from the top of the mountains to the bottom of the sea, in the highest tree and even way up in the sky, He will still be with us. That might sound a little bit like a pesky brother you can’t get away from, but God’s not like that. It’s GOOD news that we can’t get away from Him, because we never want to be without his protection and his love.
Even as a young girl, it made me feel safe and happy to know that I could talk to Jesus way up high in the branches of my birch tree. I liked His company up there. I could talk about my problems and ask for help. Sometimes, I even prayed that God would help Grandma way back down on the ground to stop worrying about me. I don’t know why He never answered that prayer though....
At Christmas time, we learn and sing about lots of different names for Jesus. The name that the prophet Isaiah predicted and gave to baby Jesus was “Emmanuel,” and that name means “God is with us.” This was a pretty crazy idea at the time, when many people believed that the pagan gods were far away off in the universe, and they didn’t care at all about what humans did or how they struggled. To have a God that literally, physically wanted to be WITH us, was a very new and wonderful idea. To have a God that cared about our every thought and feeling was something that people had never even heard of before. And it was amazing! A God that came in human skin was something that had never happened before, and hasn’t happened since.
Jesus came to be the God who is always with us. This week, talk with your family about all the ways you see God with you, in your lives right now. Oh - and if you find a good one one - go climb a tree for me!Family Talk Time:
- Is it good or bad that there’s nowhere we can go to get away from God? What does this mean about the way God loves us?
- Read Psalm 139 together as a family. Not only is God always with us, but He knows everything about us - He can even search our hearts. Wow! What do you want Jesus to see in your heart today?
- It’s almost Christmas Day, and we are thinking about Jesus coming as a baby to our earth. What does the name “Emmanuel, God With Us” teach us about who He is? How do we want Him to especially be with our family right now?