We had a wonderful ladies’ Christmas tea over the weekend at our church here. Eric and I both had roles that allowed us to see firsthand God at work through the members of our church. (Eric was a server on Saturday morning; I was the speaker on Friday night and Saturday morning). Rarely have we been to an outreach event where there has been such amazing participation. There were 160 -170 women at both events, with over 2/3s of them not from the church. Everything was beautiful, and delicious too. We loved the whole spirit of the tea- many of the men dressed in white shirt and tie serving coffee and tea and scones with such finesse! Ladies who made their favorite recipes served on the buffet table; my brother-in-law Anthony and cousin Charlie who created made-to-order crepes for everyone… it was classy and so nice.
It was really fun in that it has become quite a family event, as well. My sister Allison is one of the two main coordinators (in above photo, left) and my sister Beth comes every year (photo, right). My Dad’s wife Mickey and several aunts also attended; some great family friends whom I hadn’t seen in awhile; and my great friend Lauren and her mom came. Lauren got the award for coming the farthest- she drove two hours to the tea! Thanks Lauren!
I had the privilege and the scary job of being the speaker this year. Very early on, I began toying with the idea of using a very obscure but wonderful Christmas carol as my theme: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. A group from the church graciously agreed to perform it for us at the tea- this octet’s performance brought tears to my eyes before I even started to speak! As my sister said, they sounded better than the recorded version that we gave to all the women who attended. Here is a very homemade video of the last 3 verses that I recorded while sitting near the front (I am not in the center which also throws the sound a bit, but it will give you an idea of the song). I’ve also included the words to all five verses:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.
I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.
I talked about our image of God. AW Tozer has said that the most important thing about a person is their image of God (paraphrased). After having the ladies think about their images of God, I gave the assertion that if we really understood what happened at Christmas it could change our image of God. I shared my own nightmare story of a time when Annie got lost in a mall in Japan and my extreme anguish during those long fifteen minutes, and used that as a springboard to try and begin to understand God’s anguish at the separation that happened when He allowed – even sent – His Son Jesus to earth. I used a number of different images and stories, including Jesus as our Apple Tree, to illustrate the love and passion of God. This Christmas season I have fallen in love again with this song (anonymous author; it was found in an old American hymn book in the late 1700s); and it has reminded me again of the shade and rest and protection that Jesus provides.
“As the apple tree among the trees of the forest so is my love…. With great delight I sat in His shadow, and His fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (Song of Songs 2:3-4)