Wednesday, December 20, 2006

We're all pagans, really

Last night we put the ornaments on the Christmas tree. Many of the lights on the strand had burned out, so the day after Christmas we'll buy new ones for next year. Used the gold and whitegold balls (medium and small) as the base, then added the special ornaments: the heavy glass ones in muted colors from India, the little creches from Mexico, the handblown venetian-style glass ones from the artist down the street. No tinsel: too painstaking, too silvery.

For years as a child I refused to allow trees in our house. There were just two of us, so one not wanting something pretty much squashed it. It didn't make sense to cut down a perfectly good tree to bring it inside to die. Christmas home as tree-torture site. One year we decorated the wall in the shape of a tree. One year we used cardboard and made a tree. Eventually Mom dragged the silver tinselly aluminum fluffy tree out of storage and threatened to put it up. We went back to real trees after that.

There's something about bringing a recently living piece of the earth into your home. When it's bitterly cold outside, and the birds long ago stopped singing, having that bit of still-bright green close reminds of warmer days, of the inevitable return of spring. The decorations? Memories of better times and hopes for new times too. Bits of twinkling to pierce the darkness, to reflect back hope.

We need our touchstones, our real things. We need living hope, and the assurance of new life. We bring in trees, but we look for Christ.

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