Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Christmas Tree that I absolutely, positively could not get up before Christmas Eve

Years ago, my husband and I started a tradition born of a conflict between two family traditions. His: Put the tree and every piece of tinsel you can find out on the weekend after Thanksgiving so we can enjoy it all the way through December. Mine: Get the tree up, simply decked out with just enough lights and no tinsel, on the weekend closest to Christmas Eve.

I adored his Mom's fabulous Christmases! And I wanted more flash and dazzle than my Mom did, but I didn't think it was appropriate to put it all up quite so early. So, we compromised and decided that St. Nicholas would "bring" the tree on December 6th. We always put the tree up on the 6th or the weekend closest to it and then it comes down on Epiphany (January 6th). Up for a nice, neat month that brackets the entire Christmas celebration, we thought we had the perfect solution. This worked for years. The kids grew up under this model and there was great joy in the O'Keefe household. But times have changed.

Last year was the first time it happened. The weekend closest to the 6th, we had a concert. The next weekend was a party. As there was the following weekend. And, because I direct choirs, just forget all about evenings. Those are completely booked from November 1st until Christmas Eve.

And so it happened that the children were in bed, we had guests coming over the next day and my husband and I sat sagging on the couch. We stared at the little grouping of trees, set up and lit, but not one ornament on them, at 2 AM, following Midnight Mass. Without looking at each other, we conversed. We were that tired.

"Well," he said," you know, they kind of look nice that way."

"Hmmm...." I replied, kind of absently, "Kind of rustic."

"Maybe we could just leave them that way, " he suggested hopefully.

"Well, I think they need a few ornaments." I said, sitting up a little to get a better view of them. "Maybe we'll just use our very favorite ornaments." I started digging through boxes. "At the very least we have to find Engel Elsa." (Engel Elsa - "Angel Elsa" in English- is our tree topper.)

"OK, we'll just work for a little bit and see where we get."

Well, we worked until 4 AM and the trees were beautiful. We used every ornament in the boxes (once they were open they all came out). The next day we garnered rave reviews of the decoration job, even if we had bags under our eyes, it was worth it. On the downside, we didn't actually take the trees down until February (or so...)

Well, it looks like this year, we are headed in the same direction. When I left for work this morning, there weren't even any lights on the tree. We are as far behind as we were last year. This year, however, I do not have to sing a Midnight Mass, which will make things earlier. Plus, we are planning it all out. We have a dinner planner and snacks for setting the tree up (donuts and mulled cider...). But, of course, anything could happen.

Whatever the outcome, whether the tree is dressed or not, Christmas will come. Just as Jesus comes to us, ready or not, in His birth at Bethlehem. Mary was certainly not prepared to have her baby sleeping in what amounts to the animals' food bowl. I am sure that she never imagined that a manger is where she would lay her Lord and Son. The Shepherds were surely surprised. They were sleeping, after all!

But, Jesus didn't seem too concerned about all the trappings of His Kingship. He was ready to be here. It was the fullness of time. He wasn't embarassed by sleeping in a manger. That was the plan. The star shone brightly and all the angels sang of the Glory of His coming to us on Earth. All we are asked to do is show up and pay him homage, and then go out and tell of His glory.

Not prepared for Christmas?
Maybe the only person that has ever really been ready for Christmas is Jesus.

Painting: Nativity (Holy Night) - Correggio

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