Our family has always enjoyed having a real Christmas tree in our home. There is just something about the fresh smell of pine that draws each of us in. We typically frequent a local garden center to select our tree. But one year we ventured out to a tree farm to cut down our own. Unfortunately, I was unable to go because of a commitment at church, but my husband and boys joined my brother-in-law and his children on a tree-cutting adventure.
I remember the day well; it was very cold and snowy. My husband and I rushed around to find warm clothes, gloves, and hats for the kids; I was trying my hardest to get out of the house on time while looking somewhat pulled together. We went our separate ways, which I must admit made me very sad. I knew that I was going to miss out on some family fun.
Later that afternoon we all met up back at the house. The boys were very proud to show me the tree that they had selected and cut down themselves. It was covered in a blanket of powdery snow and tightly bound in netting. We placed it into a bucket of water and left it out on the porch to dry for a few days. In short time we prepared our living room and made room for our tree. Each of us had waited with great anticipation for tree decorating day.
When we went to bring the tree inside we noticed a number of insects flying about on our porch. Normally, there aren’t any bugs flying about on a cold December day in New Jersey. We took a closer peek and found that our tree was housing quite a number of bugs. After my husband broke the news to the boys that we were not going to decorate the tree that day, he asked me to meet him in the backyard. He then told me that we needed to unwrap the tree and shake it really hard. We did. Then we began to bang the tree up and down on the stump. Finally, for good measure, we tossed the tree around the yard a few times. I can only imagine what our neighbors thought. We live in a neighborhood where all of the homes are within close proximity of each other. What a show we put on for them! Regardless, we gave that tree a good shaking and hoped that we had evicted all of the insects.
The next day we set up the tree and enjoyed our decorating time together. The tree was beautiful. It was full, lush, and perfectly symmetrical. It was just about the most perfect tree anyone could hope for.
Soon after our decorating day, I began to notice a few cobwebs beginning to form in various areas of tree. I swiped them away as best I could. I hoped that the lights and ornaments and all their sparkle would cover over the cobwebs so they wouldn’t be noticeable. Christmas is supposed to be full of beauty and happiness and joy, right? There’s no room for spiders and cobwebs. However, every few days new cobwebs appeared. I continued to brush them away. I finally broke the news to the boys that the tree would need to go out to the curb the day after Christmas. So, as promised, we undecorated our tree on December 26th. Once all of the ornaments and lights were removed, we could clearly see the magnitude of the problem. There were spider webs all throughout the tree, on every side, on the top, on the bottom, on the outside, on the inside. Everywhere. Our Christmas tree looked like a twisted scene from a scary horror movie. We quickly sent the tree to the curb for pick up and promptly began cleaning the living room from top to bottom.
It’s was all rather funny…that is except for the small yellow spiders we found throughout the house for the next year.
Our cobweb filled tree serves as a good reminder to me that sometimes underneath all the glitter and lights of Christmas, something is hiding. For many, sadness and loneliness are a regular guest at Christmas. While most are busy laughing, smiling, and being merry, many people are left trying to swat away the cobwebs that keep reappearing. Relational problems, financial stress, sickness, the absence of a loved one, and loneliness seem to be magnified during the holidays. What should be a joyous season is often one of the hardest to endure for many.
This Christmas season I would encourage you to be on the lookout for ways to extend love to those who are struggling to swat away cobwebs. We often know who they are, but in the awkwardness of the situation, we rarely reach out. Take the time to embrace someone and acknowledge their sadness. Share their burden. Cry with them, encourage them, show them the love of Christ. Open up your home to someone that you know will be spending the holiday alone. Wrap a simple gift. Make a homemade treat. Invite someone to church to hear the good news of Christmas. Remind someone that you will be praying for them.
I’m reminded that Christ came so that one day the sadness, loneliness, and hardships of this world would be no more. He came as a babe to be victor over sin and to give us hope. He came to bind up our wounds, dry our tears, and to save us from the depravity of our sin. So while we share this life together where happiness and sadness mingle together, let’s be light, let’s offer hope, let’s extend love, let’s share Jesus to the people who need it most.