When is too soon to start “Christmasing”? Surely you’ve engaged in some form of this debate. Here at the Chapelgate church office, there are some who start cranking the carols the minute there’s a hint of chill in the air; and there are others, me among them, who steadfastly resist any muddling of holidays – Thanksgiving must come first, then we can start celebrating Christmas. So it might come as a surprise to those on the receiving end of one of my “turn that Christmas music off” rants to learn that I picked out my Christmas tree way back in June.
It all started one day when my neighbor walked across the street with the express purpose of telling me that I needed to get rid of the pine tree in my front yard. She was worried that it was planted directly over the water pipe, and had heard that the roots of this species would go straight for the pipe and break it. I didn’t like the way it looked anyway, so it was a good excuse…the tree had to go. That was when my wife had the brilliant idea to leave it alone until the winter, and cut it down for our Christmas tree. This appealed to me on so many levels: I hate spending money (free tree!); I hate making decisions (there’s only one tree to pick!); I hate it when the cut tree doesn’t make it to Christmas before shedding its needles (what could be fresher?).
And so, our Christmas tree was chosen. For the rest of the summer and fall, whenever I looked at the tree, I thought of Christmas. I wasn’t exactly giddy with anticipation, but it was pretty cool when the day came (the day AFTER Thanksgiving) to finally cut the tree down. I can’t say I’ve had a total change of heart about when is too early to play those carols (I still might judge you if it’s early November), but maybe a little softening, thanks to our home-grown Christmas tree.
We don’t tend to think of the Advent season as a time for deep soul-searching…we leave that to Lent. But maybe it’s right for Christmas to expose some of the darkness of our hearts. Matthew 1:21 says: “you shall give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” As we wait for the arrival of Jesus, maybe it’s good to remember the reason we need him to come. In my case, I need Jesus because I judge people who don’t live up to my rules for proper timing of holiday celebrations. I need him for a lot more, too. What about you?