When I was a kid, the Christmas tree, in all its colorful, illuminated glory mesmerized me. The family time we spent putting it up…the lights breaking up the post-dinner darkness…sparkling on the nearby windows. It was magical.
And, even once I started my own family with my husband, the Christmas tree was a necessary symbol of the season. Until…
I got a little too Google-happy one day in December a few years ago. I looked up more about the pagan roots of Christmas and spent hours…hours…in this mental zone that effectively murdered my happy, little, idealized view of this holiday. Suddenly the Christmas tree sitting eight feet away became this hated thing in my eyes. It stood for secularism…for paganism…for consumeristic excess. When all I wanted to do was teach my babies about a Baby that came humbly to this earth to change everything about everything, I despised this symbol which overtook our small living room because it dared to threaten the greater meaning!
What was a Google-happy mama to do? Without too much thought, but a torrent of holy passion, I took down the ornaments. By the time my husband came home that day from work, the tree was bare and the top third of the artificial branches were removed. (I’d need his help for the rest, or I’m sure it would’ve been completely down!)
When Steve stopped me in the midst of my passionate cleaning, I was none too happy. At his request, we put the tree back up…redecorated. And I continued to loathe it, albeit quietly. It was an intruder in my happy home. It felt like a lie.
Each year since, we’ve put the tree up, though I’ve made it clear, in a gentle, less obsessive way, that I’m fine not having a tree up. And, in time, I’ve actually become okay with it either way. If there’s a tree, there’s Christmas. If there’s not a tree, it’s still Christmas. It’s up to my husband and me to continue to point the way to Jesus to our kids and everyone we encounter regardless of the presence of decorations or not.
This year, when the tree went up, I was actually happy to see it. I love the family time with my quickly-growing little ones and how they make our tree completely not proportional with ornaments all gathered at their eye level. I love seeing the lights twinkling in the darkness reminding me of the moment in time when Immanuel came and broke an eternal hole in this dark world.
So, whether you have a tree up…or a menorah (which we have too!)…or a nativity scene…or no decorations at all, may this time be one of remembrance for you and your family. Remembering when eternity met the frailty of humanity, in the form of a babe lying in a manger. He didn’t come to a pristine palace to be waited upon. He came down to our filth and lived in its midst along with us. Our God of miracles is Immanuel…God with us. With us, illumining our darkness.