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.
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.
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.
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.
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