Last year, on a cold afternoon, my little family bought our very first real Christmas tree. And as I sit back and admire this year’s model I can’t help but giggle at what a story it was.
The fake tree was in disrepair. Its base had been obliterated the year before by the boys’ yearly tree-tipping. It was either buy another plastic and metal version or begin the tradition of chopping down one’s tree. Since part of a proper upbringing includes such memory-making, it was decided that we would indeed, chop.
A game plan was in place. After church, we’d come home to gather a handful of Christmas CDs, some hot chocolate and the camera which we would use to take some color-coordinated “candids” of our merriment for Christmas cards. Multi-tasking is, after all, what mamas do best.
It didn’t start out well. Before church, Honey Bun had to do the necessary research that any Consumer-Reports-believing family requires. This of course meant finding all tree farms within a 20-mile radius, price-matching, and building a spreadsheet depicting the types of trees sold alongside their corresponding qualities- lengthy needle-retention, ample branch strength, and the presence of just the right pine-y scent- or lack thereof. This, while I readied the 3 cherubs for church.
Needless to say, we were already running late when the Strawberry decided she’d need a two-man clean-up and thorough bath, if you get my drift. In a flash of zippers, buttons, wipes and water, she was quickly crammed back into her outerwear, red hair still damp and baby-sweet.
Honey Bun suggested skipping church. But I, still steaming about his 10-page research paper on pine trees, was not about to let all my hard work getting 3 kids out the door be for naught. We piled in the van and sped away only to arrive in the church parking lot 40 minutes late. Now 40 minutes is a little extreme, even for the serially-tardy-families-with-small-children like ourselves. Better to leave and let everyone think we were still away for Thanksgiving.
“WE’RE GOING HOME!” I hollered, never one to take defeat easily.
And around we turned. Back home and bickering all the way. Maybe we should’ve stayed. Maybe we should’ve gotten our heads on straight and our hearts made right. But hours later, with tempers cooled, bellies filled and research in hand, we made our way out to get our tree.
Our first stop was down the road at an enormous tree farm. For $50 you could get a pint-sized beauty. We passed. But before driving 20 minutes to the next place on our list we decided to follow a few small signs advertising their Christmas offerings.
After a few twists and turns we pulled up to a small house whose yard was studded with pines and firs, spruces and stumps. Honey Bun got out to ask a few questions.
Price? 25 bucks.
Molecular biology of these particular deciduous trees? Acceptable.
We tumbled out of the van and began our small trek around the land. The difficulties of the morning faded away with our inspection of each potential tree. We settled on a jolly, fat tree and proceeded to make the nice man selling it take a hundred pictures of our happy little family beneath its branches.
Before long, it was cut down and brought home. While I brought up and organized the 7 tubs and boxes of Christmas adornments for this our first and quite lovely real tree, Honey Bun researched how to keep it alive until the middle of summer.
We tag-teamed the tree raising. Bring it in. Plunk it down. Hold. A little to the left. Tighten. Hold. Take off the 2 lower branches. Turn it. Stand back? Just right.
I flurried about for the next few hours stringing up hundreds of white lights and spools of ribbon. On went the 200 ornaments, berry branches and squiggly twigs, evenly spaced and color-coordinated in red and gold.
It was dark outside as I picked through the last few mostly unappealing ornaments I had left while listening to the family romp around in the next room. Sitting on the floor gazing at my triumph of holiday resplendence, all of a sudden there came a large, POP!
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I wailed as in slow motion (I kid you not), the tree, in all its grandeur, fell and landed in my lap.
Honey Bun ran in from the boy’s room and together we dragged the now disheveled tree to a corner, leaving a wake of ornaments and needles behind us and then began the arduous process of soaking up the gallon of water now seeped into the rug. Upon close inspection of our Salvation-Army-bought tree stand, we found an ominous hole that our not-so-jolly tree had made. So at 6 o’clock on a Sunday night we began to, yes, research tree stands.
We resorted to a combination of website-gazing and phone-calling. The nearest Wal-mart was called and we were assured that they did indeed have a heavy-duty, hard-to-lift plastic stand that would surely do the trick. I made my way out into the darkness down the 13 country miles only to find one stand, the very same, 3 oz. piece of cheap craftsmanship we just massacred. You can imagine my joy at that moment.
Back in the car I flew, to drive another 18 miles to reach the nearest home improvement store before it closed its doors. I made it, ticket-less yet defeated, plunked $50 down to buy the largest iron monstrosity of a tree stand I could find, and began the 20 minute trip home.
The next few hours were spent putting the tree back in its place, re-decorating it and cleaning up the glorious mess it had made. Honey Bun and I sat back to gaze upon our holiday feat. He, being the very spiritual and discerning man that he is, began to pray out loud, in hopes of quelling my still-simmering anger.
“Lord, thank you so much for your Son. Thank you for sending Him so many years ago, to live here on earth. Thank you that He understands and can relate to our problems….”
At this very moment, being the very spiritual and discerning woman that I am, I thought,
“Yeah? Well He never had a Christmas tree fall on top of Him!”
I quickly repented for fear that God would strike my tree down.
But it got me thinking.
So often I take it for granted that Jesus left the awesome splendor and comfort of heaven and came to earth to live as a man. Fully God and fully man. That means that though he may not have wrestled with a Christmas tree, He dealt with the same annoying, frustrating, maddening things that I do. The things that irritate, bite and make me want to curse under my breath.
He was a carpenter. I’m sure he hit His thumb with a hammer more than a few times. He had siblings who probably annoyed the heck out of him. I imagine He found it hard to obey His mother and step-father when He knew they were wrong. God as infant, child and man.
I find myself wondering what He felt when He tripped over his sandal laces or had a bout with the stomach bug and all its intestinal ailments. That’s not sacrilegious. It’s being fully man.
He was tempted by Satan himself, wept over the deaths of His closest friends and sweated blood in the anxious hours before His death. He was beaten, He was mocked, He was misunderstood and used. He was Immanuel. God with us. God with us in our labor and toil, our relationships and heartaches. He took on this earthly body and all its limitations, emotions and pain. He does understand. It’s the whole reason He was sent in the first place, to bear our burdens, to take our shame, to live a human yet sinless life and die a sinless yet punishing death…for us. To take the sin of the world and pay the price, so I don’t have to.
Immanuel…God is with us.