Oh, Christmas Tree. Oh, Christmas Tree

23 Dec

I couldn’t believe what I was about to say. After several weeks of point and counterpoint with my bride—I say bride because in so many ways we still felt like newlyweds even though our second Christmas together was upon us—my final argument stopped mid-sentence. Cindy’s face took on a questioning expression, wanting me to complete my thought.

“I started to say it isn’t Christmas without a tree. I realized how ridiculous that sounded. Our joy this time of the year is not in trees, lights, tinsel, or even presents. Our disagreement is over. We will still do gifts in moderation but no tree and no Santa. Jesus will be our focus.”

Why it mattered so much

Cindy had explained how learning Santa was a myth had hindered her ability to believe in what the Bible says about God, Jesus, and us. The stories contained in it struck her as more fantasy than anything said about Santa. And if her parents and the world about her lied about Santa, how could she trust them when they claimed Jesus is real? She wanted us to have a united stand before we had children.

The argument expanded

My mom didn’t understand our new decision but let us chart our own course. My in-laws weren’t quite as subtle. Livid, in fact, is a better word. I think they took our decision as a personal attack against their parenting ways. Telling them we wanted our children to know we always speak the truth did not help the situation.

Overall, the family and many friends resolved that we would change our minds when we have children. The conflict renewed the following Christmas with the birth of our first and in more earnest after our second was born a year and a half later. They offered to buy us a tree. I don’t know if they thought finances was our main reason for not getting one or if they needed us to have a tree for their sakes.

The annual debate subsided that year when the in-laws moved away to Florida. I think I let out a big sigh for that relief. But the eye of the storm was short lived.

Conflict Renewed–internally

Two years later, I had quit my job and was volunteer teaching at a new Christian school in our area. A Christian brother took me under his wing, teaching me painting and other home maintenance skills working with him. On our way to a job site, I shared with him about a dilemma facing us with Christmas near. My oldest was praying for a Christmas tree.

He laughed. He knew why it presented a crisis for us. We had talked about these sorts of things before. Shortly after saying he would pray God would give us direction, we passed by an open box on the side of the road, set there for garbage collection. Out of the lid belched imitation green pine boughs. My friend laughed again. “Do you want to stop and pick it up?”

“I’ll tell you what. If it is still there when we come home at the end of the day, yes.”

I couldn’t understand why God would allow that to still be there. He knew our commitment to keep Christmas about Him. He knew what I almost babbled years earlier. But stopped at the side of the road, we opened the back of the Suburban and loaded the box. I have to admit to some joy and anticipation of showing my son that Jesus heard his prayers.

When we got the box home and began taking the contents out, we discovered no pole. I’m not even sure we had all the branches. My friend said, “I’ll be right back.” He returned with a length of varnished closet pole and a drill. He drilled holes, inserted limbs, and in a few minutes stood back to look at the new Huff Christmas tree. I still maintain only Charlie Brown could appreciate that tree, but it became our first.

Leaving it Jesus’s hands

Cindy came to terms with having the tree reinserted in our Christmas décor. We didn’t buy it. Jesus provided it. Our next problem was where to put it in the small house we rented. One thing for sure: it does not replace the nativity scene we put up. My friend ran back to his truck and returned with an eyelet screw he put in the end of the pole so we could hang the tree from the ceiling. Cindy and the kids got to work making decorations for the tree. The tree excelled Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree only by having more limbs. It was so delightfully hideous that I had no fear of it replacing Jesus at Christmas.

After a few years, we caved in and bought a small tree to replace that one along with some store-bought decorations. Each year we bought one new decoration to add to the evolution of trees we brought home, making each tree a work of love and art. Nevertheless, out of all the heavily ornamented and tinseled trees we put up and took down over the years, my son still says that first tree is his favorite.

I pray Jesus fills your Christmas with an awe that never fades. Merry Christmas.

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