Charlie Brown’s tree led me to thinking about my own trees, past and present. I didn’t even know anyone who had an artificial tree back when I first saw that Peanuts special. The different-colored aluminum ones seemed like a joke…who would ever buy one of those? (My mother-in-law, as it turns out…but we’ll let that pass.)
All the trees I remember until I was 9 years old were the fragrant, asymetrical kind that you can drape with icicles and egg-carton ornaments from school. We had glass balls–my favorites had silvery indented sections–and strings of big fat lights in blue and red and amber and green. I loved those trees. My mother grew to hate them. Both aesthetically and practically, they were painful. After our first Christmas in Fort Wayne, when she and Dad dragged the dead tree up from our lower-level family room, scattering needles everywhere, she announced that we would henceforth have an artificial tree.
At first I was horrified. No wonderful smell? No trips to pick out a tree? But Mom’s new tree was lovely and I enjoyed helping her to choose the new decorations…for she decreed that this tree would go in the living room, which meant it had to be perfect. She chose a red and gold scheme: every ornament, every garland, every light was red or gold. Gold angels floated amidst red apples and gold tinsel garland. Golden glittery balls sparkled. My brother David and I will lie under the tree listening to the Christmas records, looking up through the branches at the twinkling lights. We loved our tree.
Fast-forward a few years. I’m an adult, I’ve discovered my own taste in home decor, color schemes and…yes…Christmas trees. Now I look at the family tree and, well, it’s…boring. A few years later, it’s downright comical (more on that tomorrow).
I think part of “putting away childish things” is releasing the notion that whatever one’s family has always done is the best or only way to do things. Sometimes this feels like betrayal. I’ve needed to work towards appreciating things that I don’t agree with anymore. Knowing that my parents loved me and made their own best choices lets me smile on a lot of things that I would not choose myself.
Congregations need to learn this lesson, too. Perhaps governments do, also. Just because our forefathers handled something a certain way doesn’t make it right for us today. But pray for the wisdom to know what is an absolute–was Jesus born of a virgin, born in a stable?–and what is subject to change, like a Christmas tree.