The Christ-mass tree has always been a very special effort in my family. Not quite like the search for the “Griswold Family Christmas Tree,” but certainly a major effort.
The Christ-mass tree has always been a very special effort in my family. Not quite like the search for the “Griswold Family Christmas Tree,” but certainly a major effort. Years ago when I was much younger, the near-perfect tree had to be located. It had to properly fit into the living room, have no empty spaces, and have a natural pinnacle upon which to place the beautiful silver cross and star ‘tree topper.” Like the Griswolds, the Layne family would journey to the local tree farm, and wander through the myriad green trees, searching for that “right” tree. We always had much fun, but the annual Christ-mass search for the treasured tree was taken very seriously.
As I’ve grown older I’ve not as yet succumbed to Lucy’s desired “shiny Aluminum faux-tree,” but sadly the tall and straight plastic tree, with full branches of fake greens and pine cones now adorns our Christ-mass living room. Our tree is similar to those stately Christmas trees that decorate our Capitals. It is perfectly beautiful with its soft blue Advent lights that at Christ-mass become brilliant and blazing white lights. And draped with the ornaments of old, truly is a beautiful sight in its perfection.
Yet I think most of us humankind are best represented by the scrawny, poorly greened, skinny little tree of Charlie Brown. Few of us have much majesty or grandeur. If loaded down by too many burdens, we also droop to the ground. There are super stars among us, but most of us are pretty plain and ordinary.
So this year as I viewed for the umpteenth time, Charlie Brown’s Christmas I again realized that Charlie truly did get it right. The true spirit of Christ-mass is not perfection, but redemption!! It is those akin to the “Charlie Brown tree” to whom the God of all creation came to visit and adorn. That’s why God visited us as a plain and ordinary baby. And that’s why on our annual remembrance of His arrival, Jesus still highly exults us with His love. Jesus lifts our heads, straightens our backs, and bestows upon us a mantle of beauty. We are no more “plain and ordinary creatures” we are children of God. In Jesus’ gracious gift, we become (as Lucy says), “Not such a bad tree after all.”
In the middle of the night on Christ-mass Eve, a stillness and calm seems to settle over the earth. It is said that if we just remain quiet, and listen intently with out hearts, we can still hear the angels sing. They still sing, not only because of that original humble birth of 2000 years ago, but because of the glorious nobility and dignity that the Lord’s first visit bestowed upon all us ordinary folk. The angels sing because in Jesus birth all humankind is adorned with the glory of God in the Highest, and abide for ever in His favor. We are no longer “ordinary or plain”; we are “eternal splendors,” as C.S. Lewis calls us. We are beloved children of God, “joint heirs with Christ.”
I think it was Alice who observed, “Charlie Brown, the blockhead, got it right.”
Robert Layne is a retired Episcopal priest living in McPherson.