During Christmas, we often contemplate whether to put up a faux/artificial Christmas tree or one that is real. I have been thinking about how this relates to our faith on a spiritual level.
As Christians, we are to be real which means we have a fragrance that can be detected when someone walks into a room. A pine tree has a wonderful smell. Just the slightest whiff of pine sends our minds reeling with thoughts of peaceful snow scenes. So should our fragrance be to others. I am reminded of the frankincense and myrrh that were offered to the Christ child or the alabaster oil that Mary rubbed onto Jesus’ feet. We know that Jesus carried a holy aura and aroma with Him wherever He went. Others knew they were in the presence of God by His fragrance.
If we are real others can detect the difference once they really know us. From a distance both may appear the same but upon closer inspection, one can see marked variations. No matter how expertly an artificial tree is crafted, there is no way to replicate the actual color, texture or feel of a real pine tree. Having an artificial tree initially seems satisfying on the surface, but once you are around it long enough you sense there is no life inside it and you long for the real thing.
Only a real tree has the ability to produce fruit or bear pinecones. Once a tree is cut, it will not bear any more fruit but the fruit that is still on the tree will remain visible as it stands in its dying state. I am reminded of the scripture in Matthew 7:16 that states …” By our fruit, we are known.”
A live tree must be fed and watered in order to stay alive and keep from withering and drying up. So it is with us that are true followers of Christ. We must stay in the Word of God, in fellowship with our Savior and in prayer to be nourished and keep our spirits alive.
Real trees eventually die. Just as Christ gave up His life for us, so must we learn to live our lives in love for one another. 1 John 3:16 in the bible says “We know what love is-Jesus laid down His life for us. We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
I have determined to be thankful after the Christmas festivities have ended. I will begin by writing thank you notes for the wonderful Christmas gifts I received. My goal is to keep finding ways to express my gratitude in the coming year. This should help reverse the inevitable doldrums that set in after the holidays are over. It should affect my outlook on life in general in the coming months. It will take the focus off of me and onto others. It will help me to thank and focus on God from whom all blessings flow.
This is the beginning of my reflection over the past year and the time to set some new year’s resolutions. I realize that I have been truly blessed this past year. I am thankful for family and friends that have been with me through the highs and lows of 2014. I am thankful that we have all been together to celebrate Christmas again. God has given us health, financial provisions and many unexpected and undeserved blessings. We have jobs, wonderful food to eat, nice clothes to wear and comfortable homes. We have a Savior who loves us unconditionally despite our shortcomings or failure to recognize His many blessings in our lives. He gives us second and third chances. Each year we have the chance to start over and try to do better than the last year. By His grace, we will try to do better….. again. If we start out being thankful for all that He has done in the previous year, I think that our success rates for change in 2015 will soar.
Here is a look at a few decorations that I made for a Christmas craft show last year that I saved to decorate my home. (I made the vintage looking trees on the candlesticks and added pillow stuffing to look like snow).
Here is my collection of Christmas salt and pepper shakers.
My nutcracker collection and some reindeer that I painted gold and added a dusting of snow glitter.
Some cookie cutters that I strung up and hung from a curtain rod in my kitchen.
A rustic arrangement that I made for the craft show in an old vegetable grinder.
A little white tree decorated with vintage ornaments and balls.
A lantern decorated with greenery and a Christmas bow. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
Filed under Crafts, Holidays
It’s exactly one week until Christmas. Hopefully, most of us have finished Christmas shopping and decorating. By now we should be wrapping presents and planning our Christmas meals. There are always last minute gifts or so we rationalize. There are the purchases for the aunt, uncle or cousin that decides to show up at the last minute. It is a challenge to know when to quit making purchases so I have determined that if it has not been purchased by now, the week before Christmas, then it is probably not necessary. I decided years ago to buy a few extra things that would work in a pinch to give to a male or female in the event that someone came unannounced or gave me a gift and I had not planned to give one in return. I have tried not to let guilt motivate me to overspend each year. I try not to impress by gift-giving. I try to be practical with gifts as I am in my every day purchasing. I try not to be overindulgent and spend impulsively. No one really needs something that they will wear only at Christmas time, a tacky gift just for laughs or the extra pounds that come with overeating food that is rich and unhealthy. I don’t want to sound like a Scrooge or a tightwad but I truly am trying to keep my focus on Jesus the giver instead of all the gifts.
The phrase “I believe” is fairly common around the holidays. It is commonly known to be a belief in Santa Claus and is a famous line from The Miracle on 34th Street. It also shows an openness or willingness by people to believe in the birth of Jesus. I think that holiday time brings out the child in most of us, a vulnerability and level of faith when God can speak to us. We have more expectations during Christmas to believe in miracles or unexpected blessings when everything and everyone around us is merry and bright. It is an opportunity for Christians to open up conversations asking others what they believe.
The challenge is to keep this childlike faith or belief system throughout the rest of the year. I want to still believe in miracles and look for God in unexpected ways when the world is cold and the merriment is gone. We need the spirit of giving when we are back to the monotony of everyday life, sentiments are low and the bills have to be paid. Christmas has a way of emboldening us to step out of our comfort zones to do things for others that we wouldn’t do during the rest of the year. We need to hold on to that philanthropic spirit all year and show that we still believe in God through the witness that we live out every day before others.
Each year I have noticed that I receive less and less Christmas cards. As of this year, I have received three….and two are from family members. It is not a criticism, so don’t feel bad. It is just an observation. I have not fretted over it because I have not sent out as many in recent years either. The cost of cards plus the increasing cost of postage has eliminated the practice for some. Others probably feel less inclined because of their concerns over paper waste and have resorted to e-cards or greetings through social media. However, I have begun to realize that it is mostly because of a change in our culture. It is discouraging to realize that we are not as connected to other people as we used to be. We are guilty of staying in little cubicles at work and putting imaginary bubbles around ourselves when we are in the public. Our so-called “social” interactions through the media are increasingly shutting us off from the rest of the world. What can we do to become more social creatures, warm up to our fellow man and break the pattern of distrust and isolation?
Sending Christmas cards is just one way we can reach out to others. It is something tangible that can be seen and touched…more of a connection than a quickly deleted message. Service men, the elderly or disabled people who don’t get out much especially look forward to hearing from people around the holidays. It is the most lonely time of year for many. If at no other time of year, surely at Christmas time they should receive gestures of remembrance and love.
Christmas babies are a blessing. Both of my children were supposed to be born in January but came in December. My daughter was almost three weeks premature. We were struggling financially that year. I remember we couldn’t even afford a Christmas tree so we went out in the woods to cut a tree down. Her birth was a miracle and made Christmas time especially meaningful when we would have otherwise been quite discouraged. Four years later our son came at another crucial time in life for us. My husband had lost his father that spring. He was training as an apprentice in real estate appraising after having been laid off from a government job. Again, we were quite down and discouraged. When our son was born, God gave us new hope and enthusiasm for life. My husband got his first big paycheck in the mail as an independent contractor while I was in the hospital with our son. Our financial state began to improve on the day he was born.
Our children sometimes woe the fact that they were Christmas babies because the celebrations for their birthdays are downplayed during that time of year. I have tried my best to make their birthdays special. I began the tradition of putting up two trees in our home. One is our Christmas tree where we gather Christmas gifts for each other. We call the other our birthday tree under which we place birthday gifts for our children. We have had birthday parties of all sorts for the children over the years. When they were little we had scavenger hunts, sleepovers, gone shopping in the mall, had skating parties, craft making parties, parties at Celebration Station and a bowling party. We had themes from Little Mermaid, Lion King, Toy Story, G.I Joe, Barbie and Pirates of the Carribean.
It may be hard to have a birthday around Christmas time but I always tell my children that apart from Jesus they were the best Christmas presents that the Lord ever gave me.