O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, Wie treu sind deine Blätter – German Christmas Carol
I don’t think there is anything that evokes Christmas memories quite as effectively as Christmas trees.
We have a wide variety of nativity sets we have acquired over the years, and they certainly point to the Reason for the Season (It’s all about God!), and yet they don’t inspire the same sense of mystery, wonder, and recollections of Christmases past as do the lighted trees at home and around our towns.
Each of us could probably regale our friends and neighbors with tree-mendous tales involving these seasonal conifers.
Our own family “hiss-tree” includes the Christmas without a tree, because my brother kept climbing and pulling it over until our father, having had quite enough of that nonsense, picked the tree up one last time, marched it (lights, ornaments, tinsel, stand, and all) to the back door where he shot-putted it (maybe it was more of a javelin throw – my memory is a bit hazy after six decades) out into the back yard where it stayed the rest of the season.
Then there was the time my buddy and I decided to head up into the mountains to find his parents the ideal Christmas tree. No mere tree-lot tree would do. No siree bob! We headed up into the Cascades, transitioning from highway, to gravel and logging roads, and Sasquatch trails until, looking down, we could see we were just above the ceiling for angelic flight.
We then trudged our way around the mountain until we found the tree we had been searching for. It was gorgeous. It was also about twenty times taller than necessary, but that’s OK. John and I scampered up and found a perfect spot upon which to start hacking with our butter knife (or whatever it was we thought would handle our tree-cutting needs) and within a fort-night we hacked off the tree top.
When we got down and set it up to admire our handiwork, we couldn't help but notice that the eight foot tree was closer to twelve; no problem. We topped the top (which was pretty anemic, even by Charlie Brown standards) and saved the bottom eight foot section for John’s parents.
I took the remaining four foot section home to my apartment – my very first Christmas tree – and decorated it with a single strand of lights, a couple of ornaments my parents had given me, and topped with a glass ornament that bent down the top nearly to the floor. Somewhere in my personal archives, I have a black and white snapshot of it, taken with my Polaroid Swinger.
Over time, the trees have changed. We've transitioned from getting real evergreens each year to the pre-lit artificial one we have now. We put it up each year and select which ornaments we’ll pull out to hang (as we have acquired far too many throughout our marriage for any single tree). There are a couple of small packages sitting under the tree now, but nowhere near the epic piles we had created when our children roamed the roost – but that’s OK.
Our children are now grown and the near-empty tree-skirt reminds us we have everything we need and virtually everything we want. We no longer need to scurry about buying presents, wrapping them up and finding places to hide them until Santa could set them out on Christmas morning. We've reached the place now where the song goes, “all is calm …”
Christmas, for us, truly is calm. The tree stands tall, bright, and silent – but not without meaning.
No matter the season, an evergreen is ever green. It is true and faithful; its conical shape points skyward toward heaven, ever reminding us of the One in whose Name O Tannenbaum stands.
It is topped with an angel, whose cry goes out to those willing and able to listen: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today … a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord ….” (Luke 2, NIV) – to which news I can only respond in the song of the angelic choir, “Glory to God in the Highest, and Peace to God’s people on earth.”
God bless you all, and Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to you in this, our valley.