The Christmas Tree of Thanksgiving: Bring on the joy!

17 Dec

Every year there seems to be at least one well-meaning individual who feels it necessary to remind me that the Christmas tree concept stems from pagan traditions. They insist Jeremiah 10 forbids cutting a tree and adorning it with silver and gold. Actually, this verse refers to chiseling idols from wood, and worshipping them, like the Asherah poles in the Old Testament. Nobody should worship a tree.

However, if you want to show your Christmas joy by decorating a tree, do it in good conscience. Our family enjoys this tradition immensely. In fact, I’m going to dedicate this week’s blog to our tree, because I can think of no better way to celebrate the days leading to Christmas than by reviewing some of the greatest blessings of my life and praising God for making them possible.

Decorated Christmas Tree

Deck the heck outa that thing!

Our Christmas tree has become a three-dimensional Thanksgiving prayer, taking longer to decorate every year, because every year there’s more to be thankful for.

My husband and I started a tradition when we were newly married, when we acquired an “Our First Christmas Together” ornament. Over the years, whenever we travel or reach a milestone of any type, we purchase an ornament to commemorate the event. Among the joyful hodge-podge on our tree is a blue Niagara Falls “Maid of the Mist” globe, a Mayberry Police Department sheriff’s star, and a blown-glass whale from the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts.

In addition to this travel log, our tree also chronicles the lives of our children, from the pictures taken in their first years and the hand-made kindergarten projects, through their Blues Clues and Elmo phases, and on to young adult-hood. The ship in-a-bottle was a gift from my oldest, who, at 12 or so, spied on me as I admired it in a Mystic, Connecticut store, and then ran back to purchase it when I wasn’t looking. His Hylton High School Bulldogs ornament reminds me of his years with the band, and his curled up cat figurine keeps Kris Kringle in our hearts despite the more than 10 Christmases we’ve spent without him.

TARDIS ornament

Angels, check; green canoe with oars, check; time lord transport vehicle, check.

The youngest has his own story splayed throughout the greenery, thanks in great part to a thoughtful Sacramento grandmother. His ornaments include a miniature keyboard, which depicts the joy he receives through music; a canoe that commemorates ten days of lake-hoping in the Canadian wilderness (and Mom & Dad’s prayers morning, noon, and night for safe return); and a fish-shaped Egyptian Mau photo that marks the arrival of his cat, Aslan. (“Marks” is a good term for this cat, considering his household contribution…) The lad’s latest acquisition, a hand-painted TARDIS, shows his interest of the day. (If you’re not familiar with the TARDIS, I’m sorry, but there isn’t enough blog space available here to explain Dr. Who.)

One look at our tree will tell anyone who we are as a family. Bronco fans, surely (although Mom tends to place the Bronco ornaments to the side, because, well…orange?) We’re also hikers, fans of the baked goods, Marines, and patriots. When we place our camouflaged and Stars & Stripes ornaments on the tree, we say a prayer of safe-keeping for all who serve in our nation’s military this Christmas, and appreciation for their sacrifices and those who have gone before them.

Thirty years of ornaments now adorn the tree, to include our 30th anniversary mementos from this year’s trip to Charleston, S.C.—a wine cork in a wire heart, and a red “Moon Pie” ornament, because apparently you can’t go to Charleston and not visit the Moon Pie store.

Shepherd with lost lamb

The shepherd will leave his entire flock to search for one lost sheep, praise God.

Interspersed among this memorabilia, of course, is a story of Jesus. Angels herald the coming of the King, birds nestle in the top branches to cry praises for His creation, and Mary & Joseph look with awe upon their newborn babe. My favorite ornament, though, is a shepherd with a small lamb draped over his neck. This one was added nearly 10 years ago, when my wonderful husband, who had grown up outside the church, saw an amazing and transforming light, which led to his being baptized and declaring the Lord as his savior. I still cry when I hang this one.

Another annual tree-trimming tradition is in the Official Order of Ornament Placement. Breakables go on top (yes, the boys are grown, but there are still paws to be concerned about), and soft, “bat-ables” on the bottom. Then, Mom’s rocking horses must be spaced just so, and the plastic decorations from the early years are given prominence because they remind us how little we once had. After that, it’s a free-for all. Each ornament pulled from the box sparks a memory and a prayer of thanksgiving.

Gus-Gus the Christmas Mouse

Gus-Gus, not just a Cinderella classic, but a Christmas favorite

When the tree is complete, and the 30-year-old wobbly macramé angel placed on top, we stand back and just remember. We’ve been able to see, and do, and be so much over the years, it’s impossible not to be grateful. God is so good!

I hope your tree brings you the same joy and thanksgiving that ours does. I’d love to hear about your favorite ornaments. What’s your story?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

7 Responses to “The Christmas Tree of Thanksgiving: Bring on the joy!”

  1. Heidi December 17, 2014 at 2:22 am #

    Oh yes yes yes! Placing childhood ornaments on the tree, esp. the ones made by grandparents or long lost family friends…such precious memories for me.

    • pjoy93 December 17, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

      How neat that you have some from your childhood. Soon I’ll be faced with the dilemma, do the boys get to take theirs with them? Part of me wants to hold ’em forever…

  2. Allyn Bamberger December 17, 2014 at 4:41 am #

    Having just completed our tree the other day, this brought back all the good memories. We are fans of the White House ornaments and this year finally have all of them. The tree sparkles with gold! Also, we buy an ornament wherever we go, so our tree is full of travels. We also have ornaments made by much loved, now deceased, friends and relatives, and they bring me to tears, but they are tears of gratefulness for those we have loved so much. God has truly blessed us.

    • pjoy93 December 17, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

      How lovely! WH ornaments are truly beautiful, and opening the gifts from the past is like getting the present anew every year. What a wonderful way to keep friends’ memories alive. Thank you Allyn!

  3. Willa Fitz December 17, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    So very happy to see some of my contributions to your tree in place. Gus from Cinderella was always a favorite of mine. Happily I continue to read and share your blogs Rose.

    • pjoy93 December 17, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

      I asked Charles which was his favorite, and he said he couldn’t decide between the piano, the canoe, and the TARDIS. You rock, G-mom!

  4. Chris Brown December 23, 2014 at 1:04 am #

    We, too, have our favorites from everywhere we’ve lived, from the girls growing up, and from friends and family–and some that I have made through the years. But, since our 3 girls have married, I gave them their box of ornaments and have had to fill in for us! I love your family’s tradition of thanksgivings with each ornament! I suppose that while decorating, I said thanksgivings, but it wasn’t a conscious family tradition. Will be from now on though! Many thanks for your superb writing here. My favorite part was about the ornament of the shepherd and the lamb, Jerry!

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