Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Real Christmas Tree

As I was growing up the Christmas Tree was always a very special thing in the Brannen household. Very early in life (when I was in 3rd or 4th grade of school) I remember hearing of people who questioned whether we should have a Christmas tree at Church. Later I learned that some questioned whether we Christians should have a Christmas tree at all, even in our homes, because it "had reference to pagan religions". After I became an adult and was Pastor of a Church I realized that we Americans were putting too much emphasis on the tree when our choir sung an ode to the Christmas tree called "Oh Christmas Tree". Read the lyrics of that song and perhaps you will understand how much it sounds like someone is worshiping a tree.

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.


Favorite One said...

WOW! You NEED to write this in a book - it would be a best seller! I fell right into the memories - although we usually had a real "fake" tree - it was always beautiful. It had lots of memories & we always smelled popcorn - although not necessarily strung on the tree. We also had the sweet smell of your home-made fudge. And, then, I got to the best part of the story - THE REAL TREE - I'm so thankful we all can have the FREE gift of salvation! Luv you!

Tabitha said...

Thank you for putting this out there for us to see. Wow! Ruthie is need to put this in a book...along with a lot of your other fabulous memories and maybe we can call it...Memories of a little Preacher's boy or Inspirational Stories from the Heart -- by Fred A Brannen or whatever...but I would love to see it in print and would probably buy the first 100 copies.

Travelin' On said...

I really did love this. I just haven't commented in a looong time. Good writing. I like your stories. Thanks for sharing them.

About Me

My photo
Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton