Glinda Murchison looked critically at the Christmas tree, and a small satisfied smile curled her lip.
Yes--it would do.
The Murchisons’ Christmas parties set the standard for the neighborhood, and so did the Christmas tree at the bow window. Glinda never followed fads slavishly; her tree trimmings artfully blended the innovative with the traditional. She had been skeptical about the earth-toned color palette decreed by this season’s fashion arbiters–but illuminated, and accented with soft gold ribbon, the dark-hued ornaments really were sensational.
Humming a snatch of “O Christmas Tree,” she bustled into the kitchen to finish the hors d’oeuvres.
When Jack came home and stopped at the counter to give her a quick kiss, she paused, holding a sprig of dill above a smoked salmon cracker.
“Could you wear your dark green sweater tonight?”
“To match the tree, eh?” he grinned, and she smiled back.
Jack paused at the table where Glinda had placed a box marked for Goodwill. Each year, she purged her attic of useless decorations, detritus of passing fads: caroling roosters, red-nosed, antlered sheep, suntanned Santas. Fortunately, she no longer appreciated kitsch.
Jack chuckled, and held up a reindeer in sunglasses, half-detached from his surfboard. Glinda laughed, too–until she realized that Jack was standing very still, staring into the box.
Glinda placed another sprig of dill. She watched as Jack put down the reindeer and pulled out something else: a red plastic globe with a cheap, faux-metallic surface.
“You don’t want this?” he asked, his voice oddly strained.
“It’s too red.”
“Isn’t red a Christmas color?”
“Not that shade of red,” Glinda said briskly, regarding the crackers with an artist’s eye. “It’s too bright, too obvious. Anyway, it might offend someone. Not all our neighbors are Christians.”
“I see,” said Jack quietly.
He turned the ornament over in his hand, then set it down on top of surfing Rudolph and left the kitchen.
Glinda washed her hands and put the tray of crackers in the refrigerator. Her work was done, but a strange tension lingered in the potpourri-scented air.
Why had Jack reacted that way? What was wrong with him? They hadn’t talked about their faith much lately, but wasn’t that his fault, too?
“We really should go back to church,” Jack had said not long ago, but he hadn’t pressed the point. If he really cared, wouldn’t he have persisted?
She walked over to the box and took out the red globe. It was cheap and cheesy, glaring, reflective. And worst of all...
She turned it over in her hand, as Jack had done. Etched upon it in gaudy gold was a manger scene with a cross over the stable in place of the star.
All right--she’d put it up in the attic with the other decorations that she might use again, someday. Not that she would ever use this. It would reflect badly on her good taste, her artistry...
No reflection on you.
Strange that she should recall that phrase just now–and recall, too, how she and Jack had gotten the ornament. Some elderly relative of Jack’s had sent it the first year they were married, with a note written in a shaky hand: Always put Christ first in your hearts and in your marriage, and remember that He is the reason for the season. Glinda had thought it quaint; but Jack had said,
“She’s one of the truest Christians I know.”
No wonder he wanted to keep this. She would apologize, wrap the bulb in tissue paper, and put it away...
Glinda turned the ornament over in her hand again. And something occurred to her, something quite startling to her practical mind: Perhaps this cheap piece of plastic reflected Christ better than she did. At least it was unashamed to proclaim Him.
For a while, she gazed into the reflective surface, seeing more than her face. Then she went out to the living room, still holding the bright red bulb in her hand.
A few moments later she stepped back from the tree, and checked her watch. The first guests would arrive in about an hour, but she had time.
She ran up the stairs to the study, where Jack was reading; and when he looked up from his book, she said mischievously,
“Come downstairs for a minute, dear. I want to know what you think of the tree.”
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