The First Christmas Tree
Since I have lived in Florida three times, in Italy 4 years, and have spent the past 8 Christmases since my mom died in Florida with my dad, this isn’t my first tropical Christmas. Still, the season just doesn’t have the same “Christmassy” feeling that they do when we’ve lived up north. My earliest and favorite memories of Christmas Eve were magical, as we often spent them at my maternal grandparents’ home in Ohio where there was always a roaring fire in the hearth, and oil lamps lit around the house, and wonderful, joy-filled family all around. And our five Christmases in Germany were so picturesque, with all the Christmas markets and quaint traditions. We even picked up the celebration of Saint Nicholas Day while living there.
However, while a third of my Christmases have been tropical, and I keep telling myself (and quipping to others) that the first Christmas there were palm trees, it is just difficult to get in the same mood of Christmas down here that I experienced before. But I’ve decided that maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I’ve been relying too much on externals, traditions, and fuzzy feelings. Maybe this new stage of my life, with grown children, and no longer having the demands of ministry which, while a total joy, diverted my attention from the “peace on earth” of the season—maybe with all these changes I can remake my understanding of Christmas into something far more meaningful, and truly Christ-centered.
So, now I am taking my quip about the first Christmas Tree being a palm tree and trying to wrap my mind more around the feelings of that night. Using my sanctified imagination (greatly enhanced by my new location), I’m envisioning more the scene of that venue, not the romanticized Christmases of my youth or overseas experience, or the externals which used to drive my sense of Christmastime. Traditions are wonderful, memories are cherished, experiences help form us into who we are, but change is also good—an opportunity to grow beyond all we’ve known before. I’m embracing this change, and am excited to see what God will teach me about keeping Christmas from here on out, as I contemplate more and more the scene around the first Christmas Tree.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries
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