When I was a little girl, our Christmas tree was my mom’s pride and joy. She wasn’t big on interior decorating, but oh, when it came to Christmas, she loved our tree. Now keep this in mind that in the 1950s and 1960s, EVERYBODY had real trees, you know, the kind that you cut down on a farm or carefully chose from the selection of pre-cut trees offered by the Boy Scouts in the A & P parking lot. Picture the happy families singing Jingle Bells as they merrily drove home with the tree tied to the top of the station wagon, laughing all the way. And at the end of the season, our neighborhood had an enormous bonfire when all the neighbors gathered and burned the trees. Our family was not able to participate in any of these festive traditions.
You see, our tree was fake – or as my mom would proudly say, “artificial.” It wasn’t even “life-like.” It was a silver aluminum tree on a stand that revolved. Mom, in spite of the fact that the two of us were the only girls in our family of six, decorated the tree with pink balls, all identical. No hand-made ornaments profaned it. The tree was not illuminated with strands of lights, but with two enormous pink spotlights on each side of the tree. The tree was strategically placed in front of the living room window so that all the world would see it. It looked like the window at Macy’s. There were no brightly wrapped presents under the tree. First, because my mother was TERRIFIED of someone breaking into the house and stealing them, and secondly, because until the day before Christmas, there were no presents yet. I can remember my parents going out before church on Christmas Eve to what eventually evolved into Toys R Us and frantically purchasing whatever might keep four children occupied on Christmas morning that did not have to be assembled. Santa did not wrap in our house. And one Christmas, I remember my brothers and I receiving plastic skis with roller skates on the bottom of them, which were probably the only toys left in the store that late.
I always wanted a REAL tree. There was something Christmas-y about the tree being real.
There is also something REALLY Christmas-y about what IS real about Christmas. When we talk about the Christmas Story with our children, it is vital that we distinguish for them that the story of Jesus is REAL. I have a basket of Christmas-themed books, some of which are beloved tales, but the story about baby Jesus is TRUE. A good friend of mine talks often with her boys about what is TRUE and what is PRETEND, so that they learn to distinguish the two. Young children are not readily able to do that – that is why little children like cartoons— talking animals are real to them. The story of Jesus is truth – not made-up, or make-believe, or even life-like. HE IS LIFE. HE IS TRUE. And that makes all the difference. He really lived, He really came, because God loved us that much.
Please make sure that your kids KNOW that.
For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulder,
and His name will be called
Prince of Peace.