Normally when I have the house all to myself for an extended period, I go into writing hibernation. I lose track of time. I forget to feed the dog and myself. I may have been known to forget to get out of my pajamas or take a shower for longer than I should.
But this time I decided to use my alone time to put up my Christmas tree. It seemed like a good idea. I could play some Christmas music and take my time. With no one else around, I wouldn’t feel like I was in the way of something someone else wanted to do.
What I failed to take into consideration was that this is my first time in the last twenty years to decorate the tree without my daughter. She's married now and no longer lives close enough to do this. It is also the first Christmas for my son since his divorce—our first Christmas without our former daughter-in-law in several years and while the marriage may have ended, it doesn’t mean we don’t have sweet memories of holidays past.
As I carefully took out all the ornaments we had collected throughout the years, I remembered that twenty years ago I went into labor with our twins while decorating our Christmas tree. I thought about the warm, pudgy, often sticky hands that had made these ornaments and wondered where the time had gone.
There are many theories as to how Christmas trees came to be. Some believe that Germans and Scandinavians began the practice in the Middle Ages, placing the evergreens in their homes to symbolize their hope that spring would come soon.
Hope for new life? That sounds like something else that came from a tree.
One legend says the custom was started by Martin Luther when he fell in love with the beauty of a snow-covered tree as he walked through the woods. He brought it home and decorated it with candles which he lit in honor of Christ’s birth.
For me, it doesn’t really matter how the custom started so much as what it means to me now.
In Old Testament times, the word tree was often used to mean a wooden cross—a wooden cross like the one Jesus died upon (see Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
Jesus bore the punishment for our sins on a tree—a wooden cross—so that we might have eternal life.
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” 1 Peter 2:24
Evergreen means always green, always alive. When I place my faith in Jesus, my life is evergreen. Now we use an evergreen tree to celebrate His birth and to remind that, as Christians, we too have been born again in Christ.
A Christmas tree is a beautiful symbol of what Christ did for us on the bare wooden branches of a cross. What Satan meant for death, Christ turned into life. What better reminder than an evergreen tree?
And how about the ornaments we hang on these evergreen boughs?
Some people put up elaborately decorated trees with matching ornaments all obedient to one theme. Not me. Our tree is a snap shot of our life. An explosion of sweet memories.
Ornaments made by tiny hands and too much glue. Ornaments passed down in our family or given to us by friends. Ornaments that commemorate special occasions like our first Christmas as husband and wife, the year our twins were born, and the trip we took to Rome. Ornaments that represent sacred moments and favorite things.
A lemon, a submarine, and a round ball with tiny fingers in white painted to look like snowmen
are just a few of the things that adorn my tree. Just like memories made with my husband, the gift of life-long friendships, and the wonders of being a parent adorn my life.
An ornament is something that lends to or enhances the beauty of something. The ornaments on my tree represent much of what is beautiful in my life--and so much I am thankful for.
Ornaments reminds us.
For me the Christmas tree is a sacred thing—an evergreen symbol of my eternal life bought on a completely different kind of tree, a life made beautiful by the ornaments of grace and mercy, unfailing love and unmerited blessings.
So how do you decorate a tree? The same way as Jesus—with love.
What special ornaments do you have on your tree and what memories do the recall?
(I am exited to announce that I will have two devotionals published this month in the e-devotional Arise Daily. The first one comes out this Friday, December 14th. You can subscribe to Arise Daily https://arisedailydevos.wordpress.com/)