“Mary quietly treasured all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” Luke 2:19
For the past several weeks my wife, Barb, and I have been pulling things out of the attic with which to decorate our home for the holidays.
Some, we just pull out and put up without much thought. I have one of those (don’t stone me!) trees that goes up in about five minutes; the sections plug together, and the plug goes into a timer and – voila – a tree that lights up right where we want it, and when we want it.
That does seem to run against the grain for we wilderness types (using the term “we” very broadly), but it was forced upon us by circumstances far beyond our control. When we moved to Michigan back in the 1990s, we bought our annual Christmas tree at a tree lot a few blocks from our house. We got it home and set it up, and as the silly thing thawed out, it rained needles. It didn’t sprinkle needles; it was more of a tsunami of piney pokers. By morning, we had the skeletal remains of a tree and a deep dark green carpet comprised of fine noble fir detritus.
Aargh! It was late in the season (our tradition was to put the tree up a week to ten days before Christmas, but we had been delayed by work and the hustle and bustle of the season til just a day or so before Christmas). What to do? We hit the mall and ran into Sears, where everything was sold out except for one floor model artificial tree. We didn’t care. We bought it on the spot, dragged the pieces home in garbage bags (they couldn’t find the box), set it up, threw on the lights, balls, and holy doodads and called it a year! We were done.
Well, it wasn’t natural, but it worked. It lasted about 20 years, or 140 in doggie years, but we finally found it a new home and bought a replacement tree with the lights built in, and I will admit, I’ve never regretted it. When it goes up, I have no nicks or cuts, I have no sap gumming up my clothes (or hands) for next three seasons, and best of all, I have no needle trails making the indoors look like the outdoors.
It is pulling these treasures out little by little that I wanted to talk about. A few go up without much thought, but there is a story behind most of them.
There is the mouse angel (a Little Cheeser) that started us off on a decades-long hunt for the rest of the set pieces (making up my favorite nativity set). Silly as it sounds, it reminds me: Cheeses Saves!
There’s the Nutcracker our son gave us so the other nutcracker wouldn’t get lonely; there’s the “I Love You” ornament our daughter made at the school for the deaf; there’s the hollow egg upon which a parishioner painted the holy family, star, and manger – that has survived for nearly thirty years and Lord only knows how many moves; and a wax angel ornament we received from another parishioner that has survived more than two decades, despite our moves and the summer’s heat in central California.
We pull these out and we can’t help but stop, look, and ponder the love that has been packed into all these things.
One could argue they are only things, but they aren’t. They are treasures, precious and dear. Even if fire or thief were to take them away, the memories would arise from the ashes. They aren’t the same, of course, but they are just as real.
When Jesus was born, we are told his mama listened to the songs of the angels and the tales of the shepherds and “she treasured all these things in her heart.”
As we have pulled our treasures out of the attic, garage, closets, or sheds this season, I hope that you will have joined me in taking some time to ponder the mysteries of the child who was born for us. May you find Joy in your stockings, Peace under your trees, Hope in your hearts, and Love in your homes. Merry Christmas to all of you in this, our valley – and beyond.