After several years of not having a Christmas tree at all and before that 25 years with an artificial tree, I went “all in” and got a live tree this year. Then I had to find the decorations. I finally found them in my attic–a box of memories. It is not marked that way on the outside, but that is what it is nevertheless. The box says, “Christmas decorations”.
When the grandchildren were younger, I would bring down the artificial tree that each year I vowed to replace with a new one next year, and the box of memories. As we decorated the tree I would narrate. ‘That ornament is one I made before your grandmother and I were married”. “That one is not really a Christmas ornament, but your mom thought it looked like it should be, and we have used it ever since”. And, of course, there are the handmade ones from the grandchildren in school. (Do they still allow kids to make Christmas ornaments in school these days?)
Over the years some wear out, some break, and some just don’t fit any more. But each one has a story. There are some given by co-workers, some by churches, and others that mark special events along the way. Some are beautiful and some are plain. Some are intricate and others are very simple. But all are meaningful in some way.
Now that the youngest grandchild is a senior in college, we didn’t put up a tree any more. In fact, I finally threw out the old artificial tree from 1991. Deborah used to get very Jewish during the Christmas season. And we have menorahs and a nativity scene she gave me one year that stay up all year-long. Also, there is a nativity scene that Deborah had before we were married, made of olive wood from Israel. That one has entered our year round collection as well.
But even when those memories were never taken out of storage, I knew they were there. They were tangible reminders of people who have come and sometimes gone in our lives. (There are two snowman ornaments with the name of the people who gave them to us on the back. I have no idea who they were or what church they were part of.)
So whether you go all out, like my brother and sister-in-law (16 trees?), or keep it simple, like we have recently, remember the words of the Grinch, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe it means….something more.” All the memories of Christmases past come back each year to remind us of how blessed we are.
And of course, the greatest Christmas memory is not an ornament, or a decoration of any kind. The best Christmas memory of all is the story of the first Christmas gift ever. “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son.” (John 3:16) So take some time during this very busy time of year to just sit back and remember to decorate your heart with God’s love. As the hymn says, “Love came down at Christmas.”