I was working on Mama’s small tree that sat on the table in her room. I wanted to make sure it had all the decorations she’d always put on the Christmas tree: strings of cranberries and popcorn, twinkling lights, gumdrops, and candy canes. As she slept, I sat by her bed holding the last ornament, remembering each one’s meaning as she’d related it to me...
I’d pricked my finger and Mama had taken me onto her lap.
“We have lights on the tree already. Why do we have to string cranberries anyway?” I’d whined.
Mama had taken both of my hands and held them steady as we’d pushed the needle into the next berry. “Megan, everything on the Christmas tree has a meaning. Christ’s blood was shed for us. The red cranberries remind us of that, as do the peppermint candy canes.”
“Look at the dark green needles on the Christmas tree. The tree is called an evergreen tree because it stays fresh and green even in the winter time when all the other trees have lost their leaves. That reminds us of Jesus’ love for us – it remains ever with us and fresh too. The lights are there because Jesus is the Light of the world.”
We’d finished stringing the cranberries and Papa had come in with the popcorn.
“Here we go, Megan, let’s string some popcorn.”
“Can I eat some of it too?” I’d begged.
We’d snacked as we’d strung. Barney, our old German shepherd, had snuggled at our feet, waiting patiently for popcorn bites to fall. I’d finally learned not to be afraid of him as Mama had also shown me how his unconditional love mirrored that of God’s.
Papa had tossed a bite to Barney and continued the conversation. “I kind of think the white kernels of popcorn remind us that Jesus’ blood washed away our sins and made our souls white and pure.”
“That’s right,” said Mama, giving him a kiss on the cheek as he sat down next to us.
Stringing the popcorn had been easier and I was proud that I’d managed without any help.
“There’s an old tradition about the Christmas tree, Megan.” Papa had settled back to tell me how the evergreen fir tree had been chosen as a Christian symbol long, long ago. “An early missionary to what is now called Germany was about to chop down an oak tree that was dedicated to an ancient pagan God called Thor when a mighty wind blew it over for him. That was seen by the people of that time and place as a miracle, and many of them converted to Christianity on the spot. A fir tree growing right beside it was left standing, and the missionary used its wood to build a chapel. He noted that the wood of the humble fir was used to build the people’s homes and told them to make Christ the center of their hearts and households. Megan, sweetheart, as you grow, you be sure to do the same.”
We had finished all of the decorations, including the gumdrops. I’d asked about those, and was told that since they came in so many colors, like the rainbow, they represented God’s faithfulness in keeping his promises.
As we had finished reading the story of Christ’s birth from the book of Luke, there had been only one more ornament to place on the tree. Papa had placed it in my hands and picked me up…
Back in the present I was just placing the angel on top of the tree when Mama opened her eyes. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “the Angel of the Lord!” She smiled and said “Do you remember when your Papa and I told you what all the decorations on the Christmas tree meant?”
I did and she had asked that same question many times now, but I settled in to share a snack and to listen once again. Barney’s great-grand pup nestled close under my feet, waiting for popcorn bites to fall.
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