Monday, December 3, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Your boughs can teach
a lesson
That constant faith and hope sublime lend strength and comfort
through all time.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Your boughs can teach
a lesson.
---German Christmas Carol---
Well, as my mother used to say, "some children have fond memories of going out into the woods to find the perfect tree, chop it down and drag it home. But, my children have memories of going up into the attic and bringing down a big box full of branches." My children will have that same memory, only it's a storage building instead of an attic. Due to allergies and asthma and sheer convenience, we've always had an artificial tree. After dragging the tree out of storage, fitting it together and fluffing out the branches, it's time to test the strings of lights and hang the ornaments.

Each of the girls has their own box of ornaments (as do I) collected throughout the years. And a new ornament has been added each year to their collections. Even though the tradition has changed somewhat over the years (this year I am dragging the tree out alone and putting on some of the decorations before Callie gets home from college) it is still a sentimental time for me.

Each time I hang a paper chain that one of the girls made in preschool or one of the ornaments received in a swap, I am flooded with memories. Most of the ornaments have stories---whether about a vacation we shared, a favorite hobby or even a special person. Some families decorate their trees in a particular theme----all Santas, or snowmen, or angels, or perhaps only in certain colors. But not us----just lots of love and special times. We have handmade, store-bought and everything in between. We smile as we hang up Jana's First Christmas ornament and laugh as we hang up the one that Callie lovingly made for me out of making tape and sequins (truly one that only a mother could love!).

Just like the song above, though, our tree is a symbol of steadfast faith for our family. Ten years ago, we experienced the most difficult Christmas ever when faced with a tragedy beyond comprehension. As we arrived home from a funeral on Christmas Eve, I remember the girls asking "Will we still have Christmas?" Still have Christmas?? I remember laying on the couch that evening, totally exhausted and gazing at the tree that was standing in the corner completely decorated, with lights twinkling. "Of course we will still celebrate Christmas", I reassured the girls "because Christmas has nothing to do with what just happened in our lives. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus." And we did. It was a lower-key celebration this time, but perhaps it captured the true meaning of Christmas better than ever before. At a time when we needed strength and hope and comfort, we were reminded that "Christmas" would always come no matter what the circumstances on Earth.

So, again this year, I will decorate my tree and enjoy the memories as I place ornaments on the branches. Despite the fact that many of my friends choose not to put up a tree once their children are grown and their house is empty, I will look to my evergreen in the corner and remember that the message is the same---regardless of my circumstances. Christ was born on a night over two thousand years ago and that story is my comfort and my hope for the future.
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Jana said...

thanks a lot for making me cry at work :) good thing i skipped the mascara today

actually as rob and i are merging our christmases this year, we actually had a great conversation on sunday about that christmas, and how it was life-changing, and yet, we were able to continue on with our lives: affected but not necessarily disrupted. to me, there's a great peace to look back at that.
love you, j

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