By Pastor Sam Kiser,
For me, it’s not Christmas until I see the Agin Family Christmas trees roll into town. When I see the lines of big, tall, short, wide, nobles and every type of fir, that’s when I know it’s Christmas in the valley.
Our family goes and picks out a tree there every year. I say every year, but it’s been like three years. Let’s be honest, most of us are so shortsighted that after we do something for three straight years, we’ve done it forever. My wife and I load up our four children and make the long trek … across the street.
This year at the Christmas tree lot, the interactions are somewhat different (for obvious reasons), but the spirit is the same. Families shuffle through the sawdust snow enduring the harsh Central Coast winter to stumble upon their worthy Christmas bush. The children are in awe and wonder as if dad took out an ax and chopped down a tree straight out of the forest and right on top of the old woody. When in reality, a large man with his two daughters shows you around the lot, tells you the prices, and does all the cutting and loading for you.
Sitting around the fire pit waiting for our tree’s fresh-cut, I overheard a gentleman discussing tree sales with Mr. Agin.
“Tree sales are up this year?” The man asked. “Yes, and buying a lot earlier this year as well.” Mr. Agin confirmed what the man was already implying. “Well, I guess people want a tree up sooner since they are going to have to be with each other longer.”
It was the “with” comment that caught me off guard. I mean it was true we were there earlier this year, but now I was questioning our motivation. Was it not that my oldest is getting older and is now demanding a Christmas tree to be up as soon as the calendar hits Dec. 1? Was it not that our daughter is turning 1 year old and although it’s her second Christmas it’s really her first? Or was it that if I was going to endure the relationships God had so graced me with I was going to need this twinkling, quilted kid ornament-covered, live (dying) tree to make me happy.
Of course, the tree isn’t the tradition. The tradition that has stood the test of time is the “with” portion of the man’s comment, not the tree. Christians have celebrated Christmas for generations as the time when God came to be with us. The New Testament scriptures tell us a story about a young girl who by divine providence is going to have a child. And His name shall be called Emmanuel, “God with us.” Christmas is being with others because God is with us.
So although maybe all the trimmings (distractions) that we use to endure the Christmas season are different this year, let us remind ourselves of the reason for the season. Let us decorate our lives with love that endures, stays, and is with us. However, you choose to celebrate this season, make sure you don’t miss each other while being with each other. Don’t let the decor detract you. Rather make a conscious decision to be “with” this Christmas season.