Mike, my husband, has never been much on getting the Christmas tree. When we lived in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, a family in the church had a tree farm. Every October we went to their house and tagged the tree we wanted. The first week of December we found our tree on the front porch.
When we moved to the south side of Indianapolis, our daughters, Sarah, Anna, and I, went searching for our tree, always waiting until close to December 20 or 21, when the prices were lowered. Our best bargain was $5.00 for a mangy tree that brightened our living room corner once we added lights and homemade ornaments.
In Vincennes, we continued our tradition of waiting as long as possible to secure a tree that was affordable.
For many years, after we moved to Fishers, Anna and I (Sarah was in college) went to a tree farm, roamed the fields, and finally selected and sawed our tree. Loading the tree into the wagon that circulated up and down the rows and riding back to the little store where we paid, seemed like a hay ride in mid-December.
When the children were out of college, Mike often joined me to select a tree at the lot a block from our home operated by the Boy Scout troop at the church he pastored. Our goal was to find a tree with a straight trunk that would remain upright in the stand.
Last year, while Mike figured with numbers in the checkbook, I headed out to find the tree. Pulling into a grocery store parking lot, I could see lights outlining the area where the trees were sorted by kind, leaning against wooden posts.
The night was cold and windy, but I was captivated by the multi-colored tree lights defining the space. I noticed that the lights were randomly placed. There were four red lights, then a cluster of two blue lights, followed by green, yellow and more red. There was no order in color to the strands - just random placement. Looking at this scene before I got out of my car, I felt delight, delight at the sight, delight in the light!
I needed some delight. The past few days held their own depth of darkness. I missed being with our children on Thanksgiving, a week earlier. A friend's daughter was dealing with monthly chemotherapy due to a brain tumor. Other people I knew and loved were facing difficulty within their families and job loss. Our daughter, Sarah, who teaches in an elementary school in Denver, experienced a lock-down twice in one month because of guns. The massacres in Paris and California left me and I assume many others fearful to go places with a feeling of safety and security.
Driving to the lot, carrying all of these thoughts led me to perceive the world as especially dark, and hung on me as if someone had sewn them to the back of my coat. However, when I saw the string of holiday lights in the distance indicating the boundary of the tree stand, my heart quickened. The random arrangement of lights caught my attention, rearranging my thoughts as I approached.
Martha Steward surely wouldn't approve of four red lights in a row followed by two blue lights, green, yellow and more red, but the light surrounding and giving form to the tree lot soon entered and surrounded my troubled heart, reminding me of three scriptures associated with Advent.
- Isaiah 9:2 - The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them the light has shined.
- John 1:5 - The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
- John 8:12 - Again, Jesus spoke to them saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
I carried these verses with me as I walked around the lot quickly finding a tree that I liked. The helpful scout leader carried the tree to my car, carefully placing it in the trunk for the short ride home.
I felt more peace driving home, amazed how a simple experience of lights offered hope and encouragement to my dark places. When I arrived home, Mike unloaded the tree and surprised me the next day when I came home from tutoring, and found the tree in the stand ready to decorate.
For Your Reflection:
When have you been enriched at Christmas with an unexpected experience?
Prayer: God, you continually amaze me how you come in unexpected places, comforting my soul from Christmas lights randomly arranged in a grocery store parking lot. Far more amazing was Mary's unexpected pregnancy and birth of Jesus in a place as random as a manger. Keep my heart open to receive you wherever I am. Amen.