But to me as a child, the Christmas Tree somehow captured the essence of Christmas. It was attractive. The house was filled with the aroma of crushed pine needles mixed with popcorn which had been used to make decorations for the tree. First we popped the corn. Then, with needle and thread, the individual popped kernels were sewn together in about three to six foot lengths of popcorn, then hung in scalloped fashion around the tree. Lights would also be hung round the tree. Handmade ornaments, purchased ornaments, or ornaments Mom had received as gifts were hung there. Then, "angel hair" was placed on the tree as a type of covering. Well, I'm not sure of the order that these things were placed on the tree, but at the top of the tree there would be a lighted angel or a Star to crown the tree. These trees were usually at least six feet tall and were freshly cut from the field by our Daddy (usually after December 1st - at least that fresh). Of course it did not take long for them to dry out, especially when they stood close to the warm morning heater that usually heated our modest home. In addition there were popcorn balls made by rolling popped corn in blackstrap molasses. What wonderful treats they were. Peanut butter pin-wheels, divinity fudge, fruit-cake, and other goodies filled our tummies at this time of year. All of this was filled with joy. Even now it brings gushings of thanksgiving for the wonderful heritage we have.
The tree also was the place to put presents once they had been wrapped. Our presents were under the tree for about three weeks before Christmas. Our curiosity would be driven to it's highest level as we tried to figure out what "Ole Santa" had brought for us. We would pick up the box and test it's weight...try to smell the contents through the red and green wrappings... shake the box...just anything to try and figure out what we were getting from under the tree for Christmas. We would start begging Mom and Dad to open the presents early for we could hardly live with the excitement of this wonderful Christmas tree.
Now imagine - the year that Mom decided it was too much trouble to put up a Christmas tree because we were now living in town and the price had gone astronomically to $3 each. Then, with all the lights and trimmings to buy to put on the tree, it was just too expensive. She bought a little fake tree about a foot an a half tall with gum balls on it, brought it in and put it on a table and announced that this was going to be our tree this year. I was sooooo disappointed. I remember that I was working part-time by now for the fantastic sum of .35cents per hour and decided that I would buy a REAL tree, so went to Shwegman's Grocery and picked it out myself, paid for it and brought it home. Mom decided that if it meant that much to me she would then decorate the tree. (If any of my siblings remember this story differently, maybe you can enlighten us.)
Now -- to the real thought about the tree. The real Christmas Tree is the Cross of Jesus. It was not attractive, although the light of Heaven's Glory shone down on history at that tree. On that tree was blood and gore. The stench of crushed human flesh filled the air. Around the tree were soldiers with instruments of cruel torture in their hands as they hurled insults towards the man on that tree.
Perhaps a few feet back from that crowd of cruel jeerers was a trembling group of family and close friends of the man on the tree. The people in this group cried - especially his mother. Jesus died. But oh what a tree. This was a REAL CHRISTMAS TREE! The gift of God's son hung there until salvation's plan was finished and the gift was purchased that brought salvation to you and me. Thank you, God, for the gift of the REAL Christmas Tree.