Like Christmas trees, nobody's perfect, and it's okay

Thanksgiving is over and the next holiday is underway. Our December schedule looks so tight that we started putting up our Christmas decorations while the turkey was still digesting.

It seems that each year gets busier and busier. I feel as though I am entrenched in a battle to keep some of the true spirit of Christmas in the midst of the chaos.

We have switched to a fake tree. I wish I could say it was to be environmentally cautious, but in reality, it was just to cut down on the pine needles and watering.

There is something inside me that finds pulling branches out of a box distasteful. There the branches were in piles according to size. In the box was a set of directions that showed how to bend and tweak the boughs into a shape resembling nature.

I labored over the tree to make it perfect. A voice behind me said, “Don’t worry about the bare spots, all Christmas trees have them.”

I began to think about how God could certainly make every tree perfect, but He is not so concerned with appearances. He is concerned with the heart of the matter. I decided to stop competing with God and His natural wonders.

The lights went on with little hitch this year. In times past, I had resigned myself to the idea that one tried and true tradition was giving an unceremonious toss of faulty light strings into the garbage can. This was usually done on the way to the car to go buy new ones. This year, the tradition was left undone.

Next came the ornaments. The imperfect branches were covered by warm memories of Christmases that had gone before. With the lights twinkling and the ornaments hung, the shape of the tree is unnoticed.

When the rest of the family had enough and each wandered off to their own projects, I told my youngest child I wanted to pass on to her a secret tradition of mine. As we stood next to the tree, I handed her a cheaply cut glass candy dish and I took its faceted lid. We lay down on our backs under the tree.

If you take the cut glass and look up into the heart of the tree at the lights, it blends together into a starry wonder of twinkling. We just flopped there, feet sticking out from the tree, looking up at the lights. We laughed and talked. Nicole said, “This is so cool!” And we laid in silence a little longer.

No, the tree’s shape or its manufactured origin does not matter any more. I only see the lights and remember a few precious moments with my little girl (actually, she is not so little any more).

There are other tree traditions that we have. After the ornament boxes are put away and the work is all done, we sit and have hot chocolate with a candy cane melting in it. The kids always sleep under the tree the first night it is up.

Little traditions are what make the holidays bright. They are what takes the edge off the hectic schedule and bring warmth into the chaos. Like the many-faceted candy dish changes the appearance of an imperfect tree, so is God’s view of us. As I look up the trunk of the tree, I see the lights. God looks at the heart. While we may not be perfect, He looks for the heart that twinkles with the light of His perfect son.

It is not about appearances or chaos, it’s all about perspective.

Kerri Hofmann lives in Federal Way with her three children.

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