It’s that time of year again. If in doubt, we need only tune the radio dial, count the Black Friday circulars or observe the post-Thanksgiving Day Parade of trees strapped (within inches of their very lives) atop vehicles large and not so large.
As for these timbers, they hail from all manner of venues. Admittedly, some come straight out of the box— some assembly required. If you’re knocking it, think again! Under such circumstances, pets stick to their original watering troughs and vacuum cleaner bags retain their intended sap-free status. These are not inconsequential. To top it all, you can leave the thing up ‘til March if you fancy!
For those who hold fast that “it’s not a Christmas tree unless it’s real,” perhaps your Tannebaum came from a Boy Scout lot or from a church youth group—a spring-break mission trip fundraiser. Or maybe you and the fam went straightway to the favorite Christmas tree farm and, after some debate on proper specs, sawed the prize-winner down, heaved it uphill before hoisting and strapping it upon said vehicle and motoring home…in the rain!
As you cruised around town this past holiday weekend (perhaps in a turkey stupor?) did you see them? Shameless exhibitions of them in windows of friends and strangers alike. Douglas Firs, Nobles and Grands. Scotch pines too… or whatever genus Lowe’s is pedaling from store shelves these days. Ostentatiously festooned and illumined they were. My! My, folks! What unique tastes we have! (Lord help!) I considered that perhaps this is the only time of year when voyeurism is acceptable. The trees, I mean.
Uh oh, flashback! It’s The Christmas Story and I’m in Ralphie Parker’s living room where the notorious coffin-like parcel has just been delivered to “the old man” (as narrator, Ralphie, affectionally calls his Dad). Ripping off the lid like a ravenous beast and unearthing what appears to be a field of straw, ‘the old man’ lays hold of his prize. Behold! A rather shapely leg lamp, complete with risqué fishnet hose and tacky/gaudy beaded lamp shade. (Remember it?) And just like our swanky firs, up goes Mr. Parker’s lamp in THE most prominent living room window. Mrs. Parker is NOT happy. In my rewrite of The Christmas Story Mrs. Parker, and not the pooch, secretly annihilates said lamp!
When did all this happen?
The Christmas trees?
Decking and illuminating the halls?
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Ralphie Parker’s 2018 debut?
For Pete’s sake, there’s still a regiment of leaves on the parsonage hardwoods!
Did I miss something?
It went down, I suppose, when I was busy with other things
Like decluttering my closets
taxiing three kitties to Banfield for their annual check-up (a sight worth beholding) or viewing a YouTube tutorial--tips for employing our new Instant Pot without blowing Gary or me to kingdom come!
Ah ha! It went down when I was at church. I’m there a lot.
It broke forth when the staff and I were busying ourselves for your return from summer frolic!
Time to gussy up the rooms and polish the family silver--
Our peeps are coming home!
There were Christian education programs to roll-out.
Teachers to select.
Curriculum to order
And the beloved kick-off event to market it all.
And let’s not forget the weeks required to plan and execute
the fall preaching series!
Better be a good one, preacher!
But some of the family can’t come back. Not now at least. They’re ailing at home or in the hospital. Cancer or other long-term interruptions.
Then there’s those blasted tumbles, breaks and rehab that come with aging.
So important time was allotted for visiting. So important!
We lost some thirteen saints this year too.
Grief can’t be rushed. It takes whatever time is needed.
So I/we kept watch with those folks too.
Then came staff reviews. Eight to be exact and my responsibility.
You don’t just breeze through something that precious and important!
Let’s not forget the October Stewardship Campaign.
Or the annual church pulse-check known as Charge Conference
and that dreaded paperwork abyss!
And leader selection! We’re still trying to fill some of those posts, folks.
Listen for my phone call?
Good grief, now it’s November!
Then somewhere in all this stew, the California wildfires transpired with untold acres and lives altered.
Another mass shooting occurred (how many this week and where?)
Armed guards were deployed to the border.
And a daunting climate change report was released
Deep breath. Deep breath. Yoga pose! Pray. A lot.
Where did I even store our Christmas decorations?
As I sat in Starbuck’s this past Saturday morning with my latte, I watched a father and his very young son sharing a tender Daddy/son moment. It was their date morning, I supposed. Like the kind I share with girlfriends…in my head.
I couldn’t help myself (you know me) and interrupted their precious fellowship:
“Don’t blink, Daddy, “I said. “Before you know it, he’ll be grown and gone.
He will! ”
“I know.” he said, “I know.”
But he really didn’t know. He didn’t.
How could he? He was practically a kid himself!
On Starbuck’s muzak, I hear strains of Silent Night.
The little boy starts to sing.
Time stands still.
I crank down my head, close my Bible commentary and go straight home.
I think Jesus understood.
It’s Christmas after all and I’m not getting any younger.
I pick up my cell phone and schedule a long-awaited mommy/daughter date
with my little girl.
She’s twenty-five now. I warned that young Daddy! I did!
Then I reminded my Annie how very much I love her.
“I know, Mom.” She does. She knows.
I dig through the downstairs stairwell closet and hit pay dirt.
Up with the swanky trees!
I head for the best picture window in the house.