THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Christmas trees have been decorated since the 16th century and even have some history dating further back than that. They have been my favorite to decorate for years and yet they can sometimes be the most expensive.
My husband and I have experienced fifty years of decorating for Christmas together. Our first was before we married. We were just beginning to date. He brought two tall, beautiful fir trees to my parent’s house. One for us and one for our church. He made quite an impression on our pastor and my mother, though my dad was a bit humbug about it. Skeptical, he wanted to know where he got them, how much they cost, and how he could afford two of them. I didn’t hear the answers. I must have been too busy decorating. However, our first Christmas as a married couple, my husband took me to get our first Christmas tree. Strangely, we went to his friend, Will’s house. I thought maybe he and his family were going tree shopping with us. But no. Instead, Will led us into his back yard where Christmas trees lined the wooden fence. He said I had my pick. Some were tall and some short and round, some were thin and bare. I thought of the trees so generously given the year before, and my Dad’s response. I surveyed the fence line. Knowing, but not wanting to know the answers to Dad’s questions. That was the last time we went Christmas tree shopping at Will’s “tree yard”.
Years later, the truth came out. Late at night, (two years in a row) in the cover of dark, after a neighborhood Christmas tree lot had closed, two inebriated young men stealthily lined Christmas trees on their side in two rows just wide enough apart for a ‘67 Mustang to drive between them. Then as the Mustang steadily made its way down the center, each young man leaned out the window on his side of the Mustang, and each grabbed the lower branch of a tree. Then gunning the engine and spinning the wheels the driver took off. Hanging onto the trees, they dragged them down the street beside them, heading through a neighborhood to a small brick house with a wooden fenced back yard. Returning to get another set . . . or two. (What is the statute of limitations for stealing Christmas trees? I hope we are past it as I publish this story.)
After that revelation, we’ve had more traditional adventures finding a Christmas tree. Once, we hiked through the East Texas woods where we’d bought property, which we no longer own, in an area called Cactus Jack. When we found the best tree we could find, we hauled it through the briars and underbrush back to our car and tied it on the top. Another year, we just found a stand of young pine saplings and tied several together to make them into one tree full enough to decorate. Through the years, we bought trees from tree lots too.
Having a tree is always important to me. I guess I am dazzled with the idea of bringing the outdoors in, and the lights and ornaments seem like a celebration. And now, I know it is. It has, for me, become the glorious celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus, THE Christ. There is a children’s story of how a tree became the manger, then another tree became the cross, and since then, trees have come to represent the coming of the Lord of All. How the Holy Prince of Peace lowered Himself to be born a human. Humbled Himself to live among us so that He who knew no pain could feel our pain. He came to suffer in our place to pay for the crimes we commit against the Throne of God. Since the penalty of the crime against God is death, Jesus came to pay the price of death for us. As a man, He endured the pain and suffering, but as God, He conquered death. When He rose from the grave, He made the way for each of us to find freedom to approach the Holy Throne of God and be forgiven. But we must approach the Throne and ask for forgiveness to be forgiven.
We celebrate the baby Jesus, but the baby becomes a man, a God-Man. I love the tale of the Prince and the Pauper, where the Prince chooses to live among his people, to see what life is like for them. But Jesus didn’t just live among us, He took the ridicule and defacement and then died as a pauper, only to be glorified by His Father the King as He came alive again. The Christmas tree reminds me of all this. Of the Heavenly realm. A world we know little about. A world of Angels and light. Where Beauty overcomes the dark places of our brokenness.
In our early years together, Bill and I didn’t get many Christmas gifts for each other, and if all I could get would be the tree, it was enough. I’m so determined to have a tree to decorate, that one year, I took a Wild Holly branch and stuck it in a bucket and decorated it.
The most fun and most memorable times involving a Christmas tree I can remember, is when we went to a Christmas tree farm several years in a row with my sister, Laura and her husband, Frank. Hot chocolate, a hand saw, and acres of trees to choose from. We usually found perfect trees. But one year we all looked for what seemed hours and couldn’t decide on a tree. Bill and I came up with a brilliant idea. Pick the most unique, ugly tree and save it. Soon we saw it from a distance. A tree of long bare limbs with rounded puffs of green needles on the ends among a mix of full-needled branches stood about eight-foot-tall. The top leaned over in an arch with a heavy tuft of green ball on its end. For some reason it reminded me of a Grinch Christmas tree. We loved it and decorated it with fun, festive, and colorful ornaments. The kids all loved it. The once sad, neglected tree was well loved.
Another year, we found a seven-foot-tree with a perfect shaped top for the first foot, then a two-foot bald trunk which descended into limbs that lay flattened across the top of a flared, full, thick, three-foot bottom. We decorated the flattened area with artificial snow and lay a little toy, battery operated train on a track that circled the tree. Another fun, yet beautiful tree.
We spend many years at that tree farm hunting trees. The farm has since closed, and Laura and Frank have moved to the hill country. We miss those fun times and creative effort to find and decorate our tree. Now, we have an artificial tree, courtesy of QVC. It snaps together with lights already in place.
Our kids are grown and live away. They have families and Christmas trees of their own now, so the tree decorations are hung mostly by me. (A few by Bill.) A mug of hot chocolate or coffee and some Christmas music plays in the background. I still love putting the decorations on the tree. Then I sit and look at the memories decorating our tree. Trinkets and treasures my children have made. Tiny collections I’ve held on to. Little gifts for a Joyful praise. A Hallelujah. A tribute of Joy to the New Born King. A dazzling delight to be the focus for the nativity scene that rests in the quiet branches of solemn awe that rise with a crescendo of angels, bells and lights toward the Heavens— to the star on top that reminds me of the star that shown so bright that night.
Why do you decorate a tree? Or do you? Some say, “Why bother, no one will be here to see it.” Others don’t decorate a tree because they can’t afford the perfect tree, or don’t have room. Please write and share your story with us. Maybe decorating a tree isn’t a tradition or even important to you. For me, memories surrounding our Christmas trees through the years have been meaningful. Not always good memories, but meaningful ones.
I wish you a Joyous Christmas. A time of reflection and a time of Peace. A time of celebration. Whether you are alone or in a house full of family and friends. Jesus sees you. He loves you. Celebrate Him.
Remember, wherever you are, you are in the right place when you come to my website and read my blog. Come on back and share a slice of life with me.