I love real Christmas trees. The colour, the shape, the smell. In the early years of our marriage they were not readily available (I'm still not sure that real Christmas trees can be easily gotten in Australia) so when DH found one and brought it home, my joy was complete. A false sense of humility prevents me from sharing the photo here.
Fast forward several years and a trans-Tasman move, and I was able to delight in the reality of real Christmas trees. Every year. Trees too big to fit in our room with its three metre (ten foot) ceilings. Trees that had to be positioned just so to show their 'best' side. Trees that needed watering and shed pine needles all over the carpet.
I loved them.
But my hay fever did not. And each year it seemed to get worse.
So we tried living trees. And we killed them. Or branches broke. Or the tree became root bound.
But I couldn't go back to an artificial tree. I just couldn't.
So this year DH and I (well, DH mainly but it was my idea) made a driftwood tree. We collected the driftwood during what seemed like a massive sand storm (well, DH did, I gave up after two or three trips down the beach with the sand blasting every square inch of exposed skin and the wind making my ears ache) and brought it home where we sorted it into lengths (well, I did help).
Twenty four hours later, and many frustrations, we had a tree. A bare tree.
Another twenty four hours and it was a decorated tree. By this time my role had been reduced to onlooker although I did manage to squeeze on a few baubles when DH wasn't paying attention.
I like it.
I think we should paint the wall behind it blue or green in keeping with the nautical theme and so it doesn't blend into the blah wallpaper, but I like it.
I like its bare simplicity.
Its clean lines.
The starkness of the wood.
The way each pair of branches forms a cross.
I like that in all of these things, it reminds me of something other than a tree. It reminds me of a basic wooden cross, no adornment apart from the Son of God, a crown of thorns upon His head. It reminds me that at Christmas we shouldn't just remember the Babe in the manger, but the fulfilment of why He came.
And when we do, that bare, stark driftwood tree becomes a symbol not just of Christmas but of something more. And we begin to grasp the truth that Christmas is about celebrating the Saviour's birth.
And as I bake, and clean, and wrap presents, and put off writing Christmas cards, it challenges me to keep the true meaning of Christmas forever at the forefront of why we celebrate. Why we remember. Why it is such a joyous occasion.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).