Fact #1: I have never had a REAL tree for Christmas. I am 25 years old and I've never had the thrill of picking out the perfect fir or filling a room with the scent of pine (my parents claim we had a 13' tree in our house in California, but I was 2 and have no memory of such a sight....therefore, this does not count). For as long as I can remember, we unpacked and assembled our synthetic tree every year - which was fine by me, I didn't really know any other kind of Christmas tree. But as I've grown older (and wiser), I've longed for the experience of a real tree. If there's one word I could choose for my generation it is this: authenticity. This goes for trees, churches, and presidents alike. My fellow 20-somethings are all for that which is authentic, myself included.
This brings me to Fact #2: we have a REAL tree this year. Something magical happened in my family this year and hearts have been transformed for the better. And is it ever glorious! So lovely, old-fashioned, and authentic.
Cost has always been a factor in the whole real-tree-debacle, but with the help of a little thing called Groupon, we frequented the local tree lot this week and picked the perfect tree. The tree man was rather incredulous to discover this was my first real tree, and for all the depravity of my childhood, he gave me a little Charlie Brown tree too.
I happened to catch the classic Charlie Brown Christmas on TV this week. My favorite scene is when Linus gives his monologue, sharing the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2 by heart, concluding:
"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
It takes a Linus to remind us of our blessings. I was at the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry last night, volunteering for the distribution shift. I sat at one of the registration tables, checking IDs and taking down info from the 164 clients who passed through, each one with a different story. Many of them spoke of the "hard times" everyone is in with the loss of jobs and homes and everything in between. There was really nothing I could say or do to make it better. I have a home and a job and I have never been forced to visit a food pantry to make ends meet.
It made me reflect on our lives that intersected for a moment one night. I often wonder just what the purpose is behind these times, how it might be transforming us for something better. I daresay things may never be back to "how it used to be", and maybe that's okay, maybe our Creator knows what he's doing - teaching us to live simple, grateful and interwoven lives. I don't think he wants to see 164 families and individuals without access to a grocery store, a home, or a job any more than I do. But maybe he's teaching me (us) something about how I (we) should be living, and how our small adjustments to how we live just might mean life and a blessing to our hard-times-neighbors. Maybe he's making something grand out of something seemingly small, broken, and imperfect - much like Charlie Brown's little Christmas tree.