We won’t celebrate Christmas at home this year, and so we agreed (for the second year in a row) to forego purchasing a Christmas tree. Our first year in Arizona, I ended up buying a live tree—with the idea that we could keep it on our back porch and drag it in each December.
Of course, imagine my shock and sorrow when mid-summer all the needles fell off our beautiful little tree—despite the watering and care we had lavished upon it. Evidently, the salt content in our well water rises as the summer sucks all the moisture out of the land. Pine trees in planters don’t do well when watered with salty water.
Last year, we knew adopted a leftover little tree from a school event and hung a few ornaments on it. The house just seems more festive when you open the door at the end of a day and the smell of pine and twinkling lights greet you.
And so this year, the tug of trees warred in my heart again. I miss those years gone by when we would load the family into our 4Runner and venture out in the snowy hills of Nevada or Montana to ‘hunt’ for the perfect Christmas tree.
For nineteen years (with the exception of the cancer Christmas and the Cheyenne Christmas), the Ojeda family has spent a day together sometime after Thanksgiving battling the snow, enjoying hot chocolate in the great outdoors and arguing good-naturedly over which tree would fit perfectly into our living room. Our cost? A five-dollar Forest Service permit and a tank of gas that always resulted in a beautifully flawed tree. But the memories and traditions proved priceless.
While we enjoyed the Saturday night after Thanksgiving when we visited Home Depot and a tree lot in southern California to help our daughter and son-in-law find their tree, it didn’t satisfy my craving for a little Christmas cheer and smell in my house.
On Friday, I had to drive 30 miles away to the closest Wal Mart to pick up a prescription (did I mention that we live in the sticks?). I found myself wandering through the garden center, breathing in the smell of pine trees. I found a beautiful Noble Fir tree for thirty bucks, and I almost bought it on the spot—until I realized that it probably wouldn’t fit in my car. And we wouldn’t be at home on Christmas day to enjoy it. And I just couldn’t justify spending so much money on a tree that was already dead. And we had agreed that we wouldn’t have a tree this year.
I figured the next best thing would be a wreath—but they didn’t have any. And then I saw it. A pile of branches, cut from the bottoms of other people’s trees, neatly netted and just sitting there on the wet floor of the garden center. I found the outside cashier and asked, “How much for the greenery?”
“It’s free,” he answered, “how much of it do you want?”
“I’ll take it all,” I said, not realizing how big the bundle really was. He told me to pull my car around and he’d help me load it. I said I’d be back after I made my other purchases, and then hurried around the store finding what I’d need to make a wreath (they had sold out of the wire forms—I decided a door swag would look fine). I also purchased a roll of large garbage bags so I’d have something to protect the interior of my hatchback from the needles and water.
By the time I got my car pulled around, the nice young man had gone on break. I tracked down another garden center guy, and told him what the first young man had said about the greenery being free for the taking. He motioned to a door and said I could take it through there and out to the parking lot, but didn’t offer to help me move it.
I grabbed the netting handle and started to drag. The bag of greenery had looked small and manageable, but as I pulled it across the parking lot in the twilight, I realized it was heavier and bulkier than I had anticipated. I hoped no one would call the police and report that a crazy-haired older lady had been seen dragging a body around the Wal Mart parking lot.
I ended up with more than I asked for—enough greenery to decorate the tables for the staff Christmas on Sunday; plenty of greenery to make a swag for our front door; greenery to decorate the windows; and enough to share with my neighbors. Shoot, I probably have enough left over that I could cobble together a Christmas tree in the corner!
And then it hit me. That’s the lesson of Christmas—illustrated by my adventure in greenery hunting.
God sent his only Son to the earth to live, experience sorrow, pain and humiliation and ultimately an ignominious death on a cross to pay for MY sins. Jesus paid everything so that I could have forgiveness and a forever friendship with God. I got something for nothing—all I have to do is ask. (tweet this)
That’s the true meaning of Christmas. Don’t ever forget.
And now I’d love to hear from you!
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