Light snow covered the ground as my family of nine ventured into the woods to find the perfect Christmas tree.
Our yearly tradition took us through our property of five wooded acres as we searched for that flawless cedar to bring back to our home and decorate. We sipped coco as we hung ornaments on the beautifully sculpted tree, and the crackle of the fire mixed with our carol singing as we anticipated the gifts that would soon stack underneath.
Okay, so it wasn’t exactly like that.
Our yearly tradition was the same, but the perfect glow was nothing more than a string of twinkle lights that only half worked.
Before we even made it out the door my little sister and I argued over who got to wear the one pair of matching gloves we had.
Living in a family of nine made it difficult to keep matching anything around.
My oldest sister explained to Mom she was just too old to go with the family this year, and my two little brothers scampered through the house in nothing more than diapers and snow boots.
Far from it.
Once we were sufficiently bundled we filed into the woods, our eyes sharp for that Christmas cedar.
On one particular year we were having a tough time finding the right one as we followed dad a little further from the smoke curling out of our chimney.
An hour into our hunt, we finally decided on a rather full and very green cedar, stepping back so Dad could whack it down.
Carrying it back to the house should have been a job nine people could do. But after several tries of holding it over our head, my Dad resolved to drag it, sternly telling us to just walk in front of him, without stopping.
We watched as Dad tried to push the tree through the door. For some reason it looked bigger then when we had cut it down. Dad drug it back to the porch and hacked off several branches leaving it a bit misshaped.
But it fit through the door… this time.
The old-fashioned tree stand didn’t agree with Dad. Each screw seemed to work against him, and no matter how tight he pushed them into the trunk it wouldn’t stand up straight.
After ten minutes of fighting with the crooked tree, my Dad brought in a piece of string from his toolbox. He tied the string midway up the tree and tacked the other end to the wall. He looked at us for a reaction, and we all hid a smile.
Stringing the lights to a wall-tacked tree wasn’t a pretty sight, and since some of the tree was bare from unwanted branches it looked more like a drooping frown than a beautiful Christmas cedar. But when we started to decorate with our family ornaments it started taking on a new shape. Memories filled the gaps, and smiles lifted our spirits as we hung every ornament, down to the last tooth pick-built manger.
We didn’t think about the heartache it took to get the tree in the house. Or the frustration Dad went through just to get it standing straight. Once the tree was decorated, it didn’t matter.
It was Christmas.
When I think back on that memory I’m astonished at how much we’re like the crooked tree. We spend so much energy on trying to make something of ourselves, whether it’s in our careers or even when we entertain over the holidays, that we’re missing what God wants to do with us.
We try so hard to make the outward appearance look good, but underneath we’re hanging on by a string.
What if someone were to cut that string? What if we were honest enough to admit that we don’t care if all the placemats match, or that we don’t sing carols like the Cleaver family?
Would it be the end of the world if for once you used paper plates instead of Grandma Betty’s fine china?
So we’re not perfect and we may not make the most money, drive the best car, or have the nicest house on the block. But we have memories, and we’ve used the time we have been given to enjoy our friends and family.
This Christmas, focus on what’s important, because in the end God is the only One who can help us stand up straight. Let His love strengthen your trunk, from the inside out, and enjoy your crooked Christmas.
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