Well, Thanksgiving is over and we are on to Christmas! How quickly we forget about the turkey and move on toward gifts and, before that, decorating our homes and places of business! Most of us who are Christians decorate our homes with all sorts of reminders and memories of years past. In our case, some of our centerpieces are older than our children, and the kids are all in their forties!
But that doesn’t matter. It is the time of year that we remember our childhood traditions, our favorite gifts from way back when, and also the memories of decorating the tree that stood in our living rooms so may years ago. We always used the larger lights on our tree until it became more commonplace to move to the smaller lights that are now referred to as mini-lights. And the tinsel that we used wasn’t rope garland – it was the extruded strands of silver, or aluminum foil, that we carefully put over each branch of the tree. It was difficult, if not impossible, to remove it after Christmas was over and save it for next year….
Janet and I still have many ornaments that were handed down from our parents and, in some cases, grandparents. In fact, Janet and I put up at least four different trees each year. Our largest and tallest is filled with Radko ornaments – nothing else. No tinsel, or garland, or beads – or anything other than those beautiful ornaments that we have collected throughout the years. Jill has started to help me put them up as they are fragile and Janet’s arthritis prevents her from being able to help with this activity that she used to love to do. We counted 110 ornaments in total this year, including the topper! And we still try to add one or two each year…
We also have a narrow “pencil” tree in our hearth room. This contains family ornaments as well as things the kids did in school when they were little and things that have been handed down from our parents. Such great memories of good times. Then there is the smaller tree in our bedroom that is decorated with ornaments from our various vacations and trips. It’s getting filled up as well, just like the other trees.
Finally, there is the lower level tree that is decorated with animals and woodland creatures. It is supposed to be a reminder of fishing and life outdoors. We even have a Christmas cap for a muskie that I caught in northern Wisconsin many years ago. It’s become a Christmas tradition that we decorate almost everything!
Last year, we added a small lit tree in our three season room at the back of the house overlooking our small lake. It is for the neighbors so they can look our across the lake and see a tree. It reminds me of the small island that was always decorated with lights on trees on Murphy Lake in Park Ridge, IL where my aunt, uncle and cousins lived. Each year, I looked forward to seeing those decorations.
And our latest addition includes a small tree in our kitchen that is strictly lit branches, filled with Lenox ornaments of the Twelve Days of Christmas – a gift from our wonderful neighbors next door. Clearly, you can see that we love to decorate for this season.
However, one thing that we started many years ago is that we collect nativity scenes. Large and small, we have a number of them. In fact, many of them are tree ornaments and a long time ago we started a tradition of making sure that a nativity scene is front and center, normally at eye height, on each decorated tree that we have.
To us, it is a constant reminder that the baby Jesus is at the center of everything that Christmas stands for. For many families, it is the commercial aspect of Christmas, and the giving and receiving of gifts, that is so important. Not at this house. Reminders of the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem is the reason for the season. And anyone visiting us will see evidence of our beliefs!
Our verse for tonight comes from the Gospel of the good Dr. Luke who tells us about the birth of Jesus. He tells us, in Luke 2:11-14, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (KJV)
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus came to save the world and give us a model of loving behavior that we should follow. My prayer is that as we all put up our decorations, including our trees, we will all keep the nativity at the center of all our festivities. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…