Monday, December 5, 2016

Lessons from a Christmas Tree

I saw this cute graphic on my friend, Linda's, Facebook page. I think those are all good things to remember during this busy holiday season. But I've learned some additional lessons from my Christmas tree this year, too.

In the olden days, we'd chop down a tree from a St. John tree farm. I loved the whole process.
Christmas 1990
We'd wander the trails at the tree farm and do a Goldilocks search for one that was "just right."
The smell of pine would permeate the crisp, winter day.
Christmas 1995
The tree farm folks would shake and wrap the tree while we went inside the store to drink hot spiced cider and crack open a few peanuts. Putting up the tree in the living room was the prelude to Christmas and all its sights and smells.
Christmas 1990
OK, so maybe I'm waxing nostalgic and forgetting the pine sap, the prickly needles all over the carpet and the spilled water. Just this morning on the news, I heard that live trees can bring an infestation of aphids into the house. We had enough aphids in our milo fields, thank you very much! And maybe I've forgotten squeezing two kids into the center seat belt of the pickup for our 25-mile excursion to the Christmas tree farm.

By the time the kids got into high school, I was the only one who still cherished the tradition. So, now we have a pre-lit tree. Let me clarify. It's supposed to be pre-lit. But this year, only about a third of the lights came on when we plugged it in.

"Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!" was not Randy's first thought. Some traditions never change. These days his only job is to help schlep the plastic tubs of decorations up from downstairs and get the tree set up. This year, he had to add lighting back into his holiday schedule. He added two more strings to the tree and we called it good.
I think some additional lights flickered out after we did the light positioning - or so it appears when I examine the photos I took.  They seem congregated around the middle, kind of like Santa's jolly belly.

It was not the only light fatality. The evergreen swag I use over the grandfather clock also didn't light. Another extra strand of lights fixed that problem.

I can't even find my miniature Christmas tree. Did it quit working last year and I tossed it? Did I think I'd remember to replace it before this holiday season? Well, if that's what I thought, I clearly was mistaken.

I think I need to actually read one of the books that I use to decorate my mantle, "Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect." It was given to the kids by our minister and dear friend, Cheryl, long ago.

No Christmas trees aren't perfect. Neither are Christmas decorations (unless they are on those fancy schmantzy HGTV shows).

But you know what? The Savior of the world was cradled in a smelly manger. So if my Christmas tree lights aren't placed with algebraic precision, I think it's going to be OK.
As I pull the ornaments from the boxes, it's a trip down memory lane. The elf my Grandma Leonard made when I was a little girl lost its hanger long ago, so I nestle it in the tree branches.
One of my newer ornaments was made by our former pastor Amy, who used stain glass to resemble the ceiling panels at our church.
My favorites are the photo ornaments which capture moments in time.
Other decorations remind me of my crafty mother-in-law. Marie added to our Santa collection year after year.
But Marie didn't ignore the true message of Christmas with her creations either. I have her quilted nativity scene on the piano.
How can we, in the midst of our culture's conspicuous consumption and demand for perfection, turn our focus on the Child who was born into poverty as a sign of hope and salvation for a broken world? While it may seem the world demands perfection, the Gospel message demands nothing from us. Rather, God invites us to gather around the manger just as we are: unfinished lists, burnt pies and all. No matter our imperfections, great or small, God invites us to peek into the manger and gaze at the real Christmas message: That Christ came for us all to be a beacon of hope for the hopeless and to bring peace.
Rev. Amy Slater, 
Stafford UMC newsletter, Christmas 2012
 So, yes, I am still learning from my less-than-perfect Christmas tree this year.


  1. Living in 'the bush' my childhood memory was heading off with my father looking for the perfect 'gum sapling'. [Eucalyptus, gum tree] In hindsight, they were straggly and dropped their leaves rapidly, but as kids we thought they were perfect. In the early years of our marriage we were able to buy a pine, but the artificial ones came on the market and that tradition was lost. Our tree went up yesterday and each ornament hung, brought back wonderful memories of past celebrations. Happy Christmas.

    1. We tried to use a cedar tree out of a pasture early in our marriage. It caused Randy's allergies to act up, so out the door it went! I do miss the smell of a fresh-cut tree. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Helen!

  2. Mrs. Delp was my 2nd grade teacher at Leasburg country school but I don't think they had the Christmas tree farm back then. Mary Jane Hawver McEntire

    1. From looking at a feature article on the Delp's farm, I think they have been in business 57 years. I do miss that family tradition, but I think I'm the only one who does!

    2. This article was from two years ago, but you still might enjoy seeing it. It mentions Ruby Delp being a teacher:

  3. Your Christmas tree sparkles beautifully! I do love pulling out all the ornaments each year. Since our children were little I have bought them an ornament each year. So that when they all move out of home they go with their own little collection that holds so many memories of past Christmases.