Tag Archives: Christmas tree

Christmas Trees Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

My earliest Christmas memories are mostly wrapped around our family’s Christmas trees.

I remember Mom making creamy hot chocolate and my sister stacking the spindle of the old record player with an inch-high pile of vintage vinyl Christmas music by Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and the Norman Luboff Choir.

Most years the tree had already been bought at (where else?) Amarillo’s Boy Scout Troop 80 Christmas tree lot. I was a member of Troop 80 and thus expected to help sell trees each year. My younger brother was not, but he was a wheeler-dealer sort who liked selling trees and often, as I recall, managed to pawn off more trees than most of the bona fide boy scouts. Jacob (I mean, Jim) always felt Jacob of old settled for far too little when he sold his hungry brother Esau that bowl of stew and only got a birthright for it. Jim would’ve held out for hard cash and then the birthright at the end as a balloon payment.

We’d lean the tree in the garage for a day or a few on its amputation-site stump in a bucket of water while it waited to be lit and glorified. Anchoring the tree in the stand was a chore. Jim and I would crawl under the scratchy boughs and slide around on our wood floor to turn each screw just the right amount. It was never straight the first time.

Then my 15-years-older sister, the unquestioned head honcho of the process, would ascend to perform the task of highest honor as she put on the lights (bubble lights, snowball lights, and all), a job in later years graciously bequeathed to me.

Then we would hang the ornaments, a tedious task but nothing like as bad as the final stage in the process: hanging the icicles.

I don’t see those long, thin, silvery strands of foil or plastic, those “icicles,” on trees much anymore. I hope never again to have to put them on one of mine.

According to my sister, they had to be hung with great care, one at a time. Ten million or so came in a box. You’d drag one out of the box and carefully place it over a tree branch. It was essential, my sister assured us, to start at the back near the trunk and make sure the icicle hung straight down on both sides of the branch. Straight down. No clumps. Which is why Jim’s preferred method of grabbing a paw-full of icicles and launching the whole wad in the general direction of the tree was sternly forbidden. No. One at a time. Until you froze there, died there, decayed there, and Christmas never came, and it was spring and you were still hanging icicles. One at a time.

I don’t know what we thought would happen—apart from sure death—if we didn’t hang the icicles exactly right. Would Santa’s sleigh suddenly crash in flight and the FAA later determine and publish for the whole world full of weeping giftless children to see that the cause was icing—not on the sleigh but improper tree icicling by two Shelburne boys at 125 N. Goliad, Amarillo, Texas, whose wanton and reckless disregard had killed Santa?

I’m sure we never did it “right.” But I remember wandering into the living room as a little lad clad in those great PJs that came complete with feet, lying down almost under the tree, looking up through its branches, and drinking in the beauty.

By God’s grace, Christmas trees don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Neither do lives.

 

 

 You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


What Happened to Those Christmas Shepherds?

Shepherds-CKS01

Christmas is over. Not just the day, but the real twelve-day season. (It’s actually January 6, Epiphany–that points to God’s light, the star, Gentiles, and Wise Men–as I’m writing.)

Last night at home our decorations started coming down. This evening we’ll pack away more of the seasonal beauty as our sweet, warm little church will be undecorated and, for a few days, uncharacteristically depressing.

Last evening I packed away the electric train that journeys around our tree. My wife took the lights and greenery off of the mantle. The Christmas cookie jars are headed off to wherever Christmas cookie jars go “in the bleak midwinter.”

The midwinter is never bleaker than after Christmas. I’m a winter guy in love with snow (not blizzards) and fireplaces, good books and sweaters. But I always hate it when the Christmas lights go out.

I plugged in our tree this morning for its last hurrah. When I pull the plug, I will be officially, once more, as far as I can get from Christmas. Rats.

My thoughts now, not very “Christmasy,” are nonetheless about Christmas events. I’ve been thinking about those Christmas shepherds.

“Christmas” shepherds they certainly were. It’s not hard for me to imagine other shepherds who might have found illusory angels at the bottom of wineskins. But these were, I’ll wager, the only shepherds this world has ever seen whose eyes were blinded by angel light and whose ears were filled with angel song. The only shepherds angel-sent to find God’s baby Son cradled in a feed trough in Bethlehem.

I wonder what they did with the sheep, but when these sheep-herders paid attention to the angels that lit up the skies, they traveled light to Bethlehem, unburdened by any need to be the most religious of the religious, or more “right” than is healthy or happy. They were not power-dulled CEOs of the corporate sheep pen. Just run of the sheep mill shepherds. Good for them. These guys are easy to like.

To Bethlehem they went. To the stable. Look in the manger they did, and they found the wonder-full thing they were seeking.

What I wonder now is what came after. What happened in the hearts of the shepherds when the angel skylights faded, when that first Christmas was over, and when they went back to their fields? They’d seen, heard, received, experienced, “good news of great joy.” What lasting difference did the Light of that one night make in their lives once they were back for days and months and years watching witless sheep in the dark?

I’m asking about the shepherds and the difference Christ’s coming made in their lives. It’s far too daunting a question for me to ask of the mothers of Bethlehem whose baby sons King Herod would murder when he heard of that same coming of the real King.

Somehow, if the angels’ message really is good news of great joy, it has to be such deep and real joy that it lasts when decorations go back in the box, angel lights in the fields fade out, shepherds get old, and even—it breaks my heart to think of this—when babies’ mothers mourn.

If the Light that shines is real light, it has to shine brightly in the darkness, as far as you can get from Christmas. If it does, and only if it does, God’s coming is never as far away as it sometimes seems.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

  

 

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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