The Naked Tree

I have had a harder time getting into the Christmas spirit this year despite being more prepared. I can’t really put my finger on it. Last year, we got a Christmas tree up on December 23rd. This year, the house has been decorated completely since Thanksgiving. Last year, I scrambled for last minute gifts and threw them in bags. This year, all the gifts are wrapped or bagged, neatly labeled, and tied with pretty bows.

Maybe the past two years are catching up with me. I feel like I have cried all the tears lately that I have been holding back for a while. Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe it’s because the weather has been so warm. Perhaps it’s just the change in routines—grandmothers and grandfathers are getting older and other family members are taking the helm of the holiday gatherings. It could be that we have been visiting a new church, and a lifetime of routines has just changed. It could be that I realize this may be the last year my children really “believe.”

Maybe it’s just everything combined, but I am usually the holly jolliest person you’ll find from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, and this year is just different. I’m not sad, not really. I just can’t quite put my finger on it….

Until one day when I was in the office seeing one my long-time patients. You aren’t supposed to have favorites, but she is one of mine. We had been in the process of getting the office decorated for Christmas, and I believe in a tree and a nativity in every room that will hold one. But the office is busy, and it’s hard to decorate a tree when patients are in and out, and it’s hard to find the time to do it all after hours. So, we had some “naked trees”. When she asked me if I was ready for Christmas, I laughed and pointed to the naked tree. “This is about as ready as I can get this year. At least the lights are pretty.” She laughed too and agreed that the lights were pretty, then she said, “Well, that’s not what Christmas is about anyway, is it?” And I had to admit she was completely right.

Christmas isn’t about lights, and decorations, and pretty bows. It isn’t about making sure to drive and see all the Christmas lights. It isn’t about cookies, or Santa, or even traditions. All those things are wonderful! But if they don’t remind us of the real reason for Christmas, then they don’t matter.

Jesus, the Savior of the World, was born in a barn….a literal barn. And his mother snuggled him up and laid him in a feed trough. The only light we read of was that coming from the one bright star the wise men would follow to worship him weeks or months later (maybe even years later from where they travelled). The only visitors were some dirty, and probably stinky, shepherds whom an angel had visited to announce his birth, unless you count the animals in the barn. His mother was a young, unwed woman who was probably ridiculed throughout her pregnancy. His earthly father was a humble, faithful man who didn’t turn her away despite the judgment and scorn they both likely faced. To say they broke tradition would be an understatement. I would dare to say there wasn’t an evergreen tree in sight that night, either.

I’ve thought a lot about that naked tree in the days since that conversation. And I’ve left it naked. Every time I walk in that room, I am reminded of the real reason for this season, and I feel better and more at peace. Traditions will change. Children grow up. Loved ones will go Home. Friends will come and go. Gifts will never truly fulfill. But no matter how things change here, Jesus remains the same. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

From now on, I think I will leave one naked tree as a reminder to be thankful and to stay focused on the real reason for this season. May you all have a healthy, peaceful, and blessed Christmas & New Year!

In His Love,

Dr. Allison Key