The day was perfect. The ice fog had lifted and the temperature had risen to a mere 25 degrees below zero. The hike to the back of our property in search of the perfect Christmas tree looked like it would be an outing we would enjoy. As a special bonus we took our two Siberian Huskies with us.
It took a while to reach the trees, but we enjoyed the relatively mild air. The dogs romped in the deep snow. I was feeling the tingle of what they call the “Christmas spirit,” as we continued into the bush. Then we saw the tree, and it was perfect: not too big, not too small and fairly well proportioned. We cut it down and strapped it to the toboggan. As we headed back, we even hummed a well-known Christmas song, something about the peace and joy of the season.
We were almost home when that mood was instantly changed. For some unknown reason our dogs chose that moment to engage in one of their all-out, let’s see who’s top dog, go for the throat, fights. They were full-grown Huskies, both about the same age, weight and strength. When they went at each other, it looked like one of them would end up dead. We tried everything we could think of to make them stop, but they were oblivious to us. All we could do was stand and watch as they tore at one another.
By the time it was over, one dog had a gash from the base of one ear to the end of his jaw, the other was limping badly and both were covered in blood. So much for our idyllic, peaceful Christmas excursion. When we got home we had to doctor the dogs, so the tree was left outside. Decorating would have to wait.
By the time we thought about the tree again, the temperature had plummeted to -60. When we dragged it inside, it was so frozen most of its needles fell off. Tinsel doesn’t look quite the same on bare branches. Charlie Brown could have used it for his Christmas show. About that time I found out the present I’d ordered for my husband would not arrive before the 25th, and the one grocery store in town had run out of turkeys. Some Christmas this was turning out to be - a bare tree, no presents, no turkey. It was enough to make even one who loves Christmas shout, “Bah Humbug!”
Well, things did improve somewhat. I found another gift to give my husband, and a friend, an early shopper, invited us to share the turkey dinner. The tree was still a Charlie Brown special, but it grew on me as time went on. By the 25th, I almost had the Christmas spirit again, but I couldn’t help feel something was missing.
It took me a few more years to figure out what that something was. The year I declared my faith in the One for whom the day is set aside, none of the trappings of Christmas mattered. The need to have the perfect decorations, the gifts, the food, even that illusive “spirit,” faded. A deeper need had been met. That year I discovered the Christ. I understood why He came.
“Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
That “rising sun” is Jesus, the one called Immanuel, God with us. He came for me, and for you. Nothing else matters.