If I have any readers of this blog, they are probably yawning and have long since given up looking for me with any regularity. Christmas started in earnest after Thanksgiving, no matter my stubborn belief that I do not put up a tree until the first weekend in December and that even doing that seems to be more ritual than anything. I have resigned myself to the fact that of the nine or ten light strings I put on the tree, which worked when I plugged them in beforehand, at least two strings will die the day after I have the tree all decorated. The manufacturers of these little ulcers in a box, (and we all know it is likely China), fool us with the credo that if one bulb goes out, the string will stay lit. It is a part truth, because the string will invariably stay partly lit, but the one half will die and stubbornly refuse to light ever again. It has caused me hours of endless Christmas frustration in the past and wondering why I bother with the stupid tree anyway.
Not want a Christmas tree? That is blasphemy of the highest sort. Why, I remember when my dad's parents, the elderly of elderly set of grandparents I possessed, didn't want a tree. I was a kid but I was shocked and appalled that Grandma Walter didn't want to put up a Christmas tree. Luckily, some of her daughters held my same opinion and got a tree for her and decorated it with the blue lights, tinsel and simple ornaments I always associated with her. I could never imagine Grandma Walter getting excited about picking out just the right ornaments for her tree or taking joy out of this sign of eternal optimism, as the tree was cut down and put in its stand. I shuddered to think I would ever get that old, and lose all the spirit that to me was Christmas. Christmas tree decorating for me as a child, was a family affair, and my brother and I always waited with baited breath until the light strings, (which back then seemed to not work before they went on the tree and we would spend a good hour figuring out which bulb had perished), were all on the tree, so my brothers and sister and I could hang the ornaments, and finish off the tree with the glorious tinsel. I don't remember my mother ever being tired and cranky about the Christmas tree, (I'm sure she was), I just remember staring at the finished tree for hours and thinking it was magical to stare into the tree with its lights and glitter covered ornaments and shiny tinsel. There was no other time like Christmas and it wasn't ready to begin until the tree was decorated.
Well, wouldn't you know it, too many years of malfunctioning lights have done me in. Too many years of my kids indifference to decorating the tree, and my struggling with not feeling very ho-ho-ho, and pretending I did, made me a kindred soul to Grandma Walter. I have threatened an artificial tree for years, preferably one that is "pre-lit" but somehow have just never got around to it. We now discovered all those conservation seedlings we planted 15 years ago grown into presentable blue and white spruce trees, the perfect size for a Christmas tree. We invariably will find 3 trees in a row, planted too close together, and the last decade have found the perfect way to thin the grove and get a really fresh tree that doesn't shed its needles and isn't artificially sprayed green to look better. Our trees may be a bit crooked and may have one or two bald patches, but the ding, ding, ding,.....bonus: its FREE for the cutting.
This year I faced the tree trimming with the usual loathing, more at myself for not appreciating the ability to still do this and find some fun and good memories in it, than anything else. But some where along the line of Kurt and I cutting the tree down on a December morning which had seen a heavy, six inch snowfall coat all of the branches, (since melted and now a brown Christmas would seem to be our lot), letting it thaw out in the garage overnight and getting it up the next day, I experienced a new sense of peace about decorating. I didn't put a full dozen ornaments on the tree. The tree was smaller this year and seemed to tell me, "less is more". I searched my soul while I decorated this year, and realized if I lost the want to decorate the Christmas tree, I had gone down a road of Christmas truly being just another holiday to get through. I didn't have to participate in the rush to buy the perfect gift, or all the extraneous details we have now attached to Christmas. I could just appreciate it for what the holiday is, the birth of my Lord Jesus. I could marvel once again at how it must have been to be a shepherd in the fields that night, looking up into a sky full of stars, to see that one star more brilliant than any others and suddenly to have the skies alive with a multitude of the Heavenly Host proclaiming His birth. Just trying to imagine it takes my breath away.
A Christmas tree may seem to be pretty far removed from Bethlehem and the birth of the Savior, but it reminds me that I need to slow down and reflect and be joyous, even if that is a quiet joy.....