Many years ago my grandfather asked what I wanted from Santa Clause. I proceeded to share my self-indulgent list of gifts I wished for. With irritation, he responded, “You know, money doesn't grow on trees! You want too many things, we’re gonna need a tree that grows money to buy you all the gifts you want.”
I had no idea what I had done wrong, but I had this sense that I had done something. My face flushed bright red and I felt sick to my stomach.
As an adult, I am aware that money does not grow on trees. At times, I wished I could find such a tree. Today, there is something else that grows on trees.
Awkward, hurtful memories linger as well as heartwarming, fun recollections of Christmas past. I also anticipate of the joys of my upcoming Christmas season.
Each year our family and friends go on an adventure looking for the perfect Christmas tree. This tradition is the kickoff for our Christmas season. The adventure usually begins on a cold afternoon and, if we’re lucky, it’s snowing. We fill our stomachs with chili, bundle up and off we go on the quest for the perfect tree.
Finding the perfect tree is elusive in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Sometimes we spend hours hiking over the river and through the woods, looking near and far for the tree that is shaped perfectly with the right height and width.
Rarely do we find a tree that meets all the optimistic criteria. It’s too tall, too short, too wide or too thin. Periodically, in our hopeful state, we locate the picture perfect tree and cut it down. We celebrate with hot chocolate and cookies.
This activity is not always as nice as it sounds. There is usually an argument between sisters. Somebody loses a mitten, hat or saw in the woods and predictably, it’s a pain to bring the tree in the house.
Once in the house, we don't like the tree at first sight. It looks different in the house compared to it's home in the forest. It’s a plain, green pine tree we cut down, stuck in a tree stand and placed it in a corner somewhere.
Until.... we make it our Christmas tree. We “ohhh” and “ahhh” as each ornament is taken out of its packaging. Our sounds of admiration feel as if we’re seeing the ornament for the very first time. We decorate the branches with handmade ornaments, nestling them into the perfect spot. Christmas music plays in the background as memories emerge and are cherished.
You see each ornament was made by my maternal grandparents and great aunt. The memories attached to each ornament connect to people we deeply love with years of treasured memories.
As I stand back and look at our memory-filled tree, perfectly placed twinkling lights and the first wrapped gifts of the season, I’m reminded that money can’t buy memories. Our tree lavishes us with so much more love, joy, hope, and peace.
The whole Christmas tree cutting tradition, the lights, decorations and well-thought-out gift purchasing is a spiritual experience for me. It symbolizes traditions, possibilities, and gratitude. The tree is a symbol of God’s strength and commitment to us. The lights and ornaments remind me of all the goodness and opportunities in the world. When it’s dark outside and the world filled with tragedy and strife, the twinkling lights shine reminding me of His joy and hope. The beautifully wrapped gifts embody God’s greatest gift to us, His Son, Jesus Christ.
Santa brought joy to me as a child and today the thrill of anticipating Santa’s gifts, fill the hearts of my grandchildren. Yet, Santa is not the real reason for my joy or the excitement of the grandkids. Jesus is the heart of Christmas.
Isn’t that what Christmas is all about anyway? The recognition and celebration of the birth of our Savior is the reason for the season. Why wouldn’t we rejoice and praise God with a spectacular, shiny, sparkly tree?
Money can’t buy us eternal life or gratitude. Money can buy things we may need or want, but money can not give us joy, contentment, or savored memories. Our Christmas tree grows more than money; it produces lasting, meaningful memories.
Ask yourself a couple of these questions to inspire memory-making traditions.
· How can you make, unforgettable memories for you and your family?
· What brought you joy as a child that you could bring into life today?
· Who in your life do you want to include in on these memorable experiences?
May your traditions and memories warm your heart. As you gaze at your Christmas tree may you be blessed by the true meaning of Christmas.