With 2020 fully in our rear view mirror – and we aren’t backing up for anything – today was the day we decided we would “take down” the tree that has stood so nicely in our living room for these past weeks. You may recall that this artificial tree was the wrong one. We had two downstairs: the new one we purchased last year because we were no longer satisfied with the one we had had for a few years, and then there was the one we had had for a few years. Last year I wanted to donate it and get it out of the house, but Cheri thought that we should hang on to it in case one of the boys would need a tree when they moved out, which right now is scheduled for “at some point in the future, known only to God). So two years ago we put it in the basement storage, used the new one we had purchased, and when we were done, we put it back in the big storage box, leaving the old one displayed with lights on it in the storage, even though we had a big green tarp bag that would hold it. This year, when it was time to bring the tree up, I was busy doing something else, so Cheri enlisted the boys’ help to haul the tree upstairs and put it in the living room. When I saw it, I knew (even given my caution to make sure that they would get the right tree) that indeed, they had brought up the old one instead. As a nod to 2020, I pronounced that this old one was fine for this year. So, we decorated it, and lit it, and it looked very nice for our time of holiday.
Today, however, we took it down. As we carefully removed and packed all the ornaments, and then took off the artificial popcorn and cranberry garland (we moved to artificial, since the real stuff we used to string was viewed as a popular snack by certain four-leggers), and then removed the lights. It was pretty bare. It didn’t really look like a Christmas tree, except for the fact that I can’t imagine another tree that would stand in the living room for any occasion.
Cheri found the big zip up plastic tarp bag downstairs, and we took the tree apart into three pieces, along with the stand, and as we had done so a number of times in the past, we crammed and shoved and pushed the thing into the bag, and then hoped diligently that the zipper would not break. Success! Except that as I stood up, I put my hand on the tree stand that I had laid on the back of the chair. A quick unzip, cram the stand, and zip back up, and it is done.
I expect we will donate it, as we have other things, but for now, I think it will go downstairs into storage until its fate is decided. Actually, I really like the tree after all – we just got dissatisfied last year into buying a new, taller, jazzier tree. That happens for many things in our lives, don’t you think? In one sense, especially when other forces seem to be pushing on our minds and hearts, we tend to get hungry for something new, something different, something a little flashier or better than we have. It’s not a good habit, but it does grab us some times. Of course it is one thing when we are talking about Christmas trees – it’s quite another when we are talking about our relationships, our loves, our lives with others. I think perhaps the dumbest thing any human can do is to decide they are dissatisfied with the status quo when it comes to people in their lives, and they make the utterly stupid move to change things out, when nothing is really wrong. They just don’t have the will to make things better with what they have.
But I wanted to tell you something even more shocking about what happened at Christmas this year. It was probably two days after Christmas day, when Cheri and I were just sitting in the living room as evening came, and we had the tree lit, and were just feeling happy, that Cheri noticed it. With a gasp, she said, “Do you see something?” I of course said no, that everything was fine. She then guided me on a short hunt to discover what was wrong, asking me numerous questions about our traditions as a family, and what is a very normal part of our Christmas life. Nope, I said – not a clue.
Then she shared the reason for the gasp: she said, “No candy canes!” For 63 years, and with this my 64th Christmas, I am sure that 12-24 white and red candy canes adorned the Christmas tree every Christmas morning. Nearly hidden by the bright lights and the presents, still they hung there, waiting for the opportunity to be captured and gobbled up by a happy child.
We forgot them. With all the other preparations and such, I’m not sure that Santa even bought any this year. There was certainly no visible stash of canes anywhere in any closet or such. We remembered the apples and oranges in the ends of the stockings, and the Cracker Jacks and the chocolate oranges – but not a candy cane in sight.
It was rather shocking, in a minor way. Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that none of us missed them. With the overabundance of Christmas, the absence of the canes was just a tiny blip, until two days later.
That’s perhaps another good lesson for me to learn, at least. In our hard effort to keep traditions, especially around those holy and important times of each year, it can happen that sometimes things get missed. It’s not a tragedy or a disaster, but it reminds me that even when we try to be very thoughtful and intentional, it can happen that we accidentally let some things slide. Now, if we intend to let them go, that’s one thing – but when we just forget, it’s a good reminder of taking care not to forget things of value and importance in our daily lives, just because we have filled our minds and days with too much other stuff. As we are checking on the latest figures of COVID-19 in our states, let’s not forget to tell the people around us that we love them. As we are trying hard to remember the things we want to get done on only trip outside of the house, let’s not forget an intentional compliment on how someone looks or acts.
We may forget candy canes, but let’s never forget to live intentionally as grace-filled and joy-filled people, created by God to live just that way.
Word for the day: whelve. Pronounced pretty much like it looks, with a “wh” put in front of an “elve.” The word comes to us from the Old English, which is what it sounds like, all foggy and misty and hidden. The word meant, in that time, “to turn something upside down.” The purpose of it, though, is like turning a bowl over in order to hide what is inside of it. Today, the word is better understood as “burying something deep,” or to deeply hide and cover, so that no one can find it. Young teenaged boys and girls both have the tendency to fall in love, or fall in a crush quickly, and then to “whelve” the feelings deep in their hearts, often letting no one know how they truly feel…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.