For her English class, Abigail had to write an observation paper. It was rather enjoyable to us so we thought that we would share it with you. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes look – from her perspective – at what usually happens in our home the weekend following Thanksgiving.
Setting up the Christmas Tree
“Dad, are we setting up the Christmas tree on Saturday?” Nearly every Thanksgiving, one of us kids pops the question, and almost every time, the tree has gone up that Saturday.
Someone goes downstairs to the deepest, darkest corner of the house and disappears under the stairs. Depending on who is under there, we may hear some grunting and groaning before they once again emerge into the light dragging one, if not two, totes out Then the same process is repeated: more being lost in the darkness, grunting and groaning, and reappearing with another tote or two. Between the tree, ornaments, lights, and other decorations, there are four totes to pull out, so it takes a little while to get them out and upstairs.
“Bring the vacuum cleaner!” someone hollers to everyone upstairs.
“You get it,” says one to the other.
“No, you,” says the second one to the first. Finally, the vacuum cleaner is on its way to the basement to rid the totes of their dust and dirt before they are brought upstairs and opened.
Then one of us kids races to grab the Christmas CDs and stuff five of them into the player. The Boston Pops always goes first; that is the tradition, even though we might hear from the youngest member of the family, “Not the Boston Pops! We always listen to that! Let’s listen to something else.” “No,” a sister explains, “we have to start with the Boston Pops because we have always done that. We are not changing it.”
The orchestra begins playing “Deck the Halls” as we start opening the totes filled with known, but forgotten, treasures. It is almost like opening presents as we peer inside to see what new things we bought last year at the Christmas sales and then stored away and forgot about.
“Oh, look! Can we hang these on the tree?” yells Jonathan as he pulls out some glittery star ornaments.
“No, we bought those last year for our Christmas tea party,” I respond.
Then out comes all the pieces and parts for our fake Christmas tree. Mom starts separating the different sets of branches. When we were little, we would get our dolls and arrange the branches just so, and then usually get our picture taken. Those times are past now though, as I am the youngest girl, and am 15. Now, piles of branches are strewn around the living room. The music blares its season’s greetings as the middle and base of the tree-stand tall in the corner like a sentry on duty.
“Abigail, do you want to put some branches on?”
“Sure,” I say, with my head buried deep in the tote of decorations.
Snap! Snap! Around the tree I go. I snap the boughs into place and spread out the long branches that look like protruding tentacles on an octopus. After making sure all the branches are snugly snapped into their places, it is finally time to put the top of the tree on.
“Can I do it?” I ask mom.
“I think we will let Daniel do it because he did not put any branches on.”
“Oh.” Daniel had been on the couch reading and nobody told him when it was his turn to put a set of branches on. In the end, Dad put the top on.
After the tree is up, the Boston Pops is finished gracing us with its masterpieces, another CD begins and Bebe and CeeCee Winnans start “Jingle Belling” their way into our living room.
The next task is to put the lights on the tree. Oh, the lights. Every year we go through an episode kind of like this one:
“Here are the lights. Abby, go test them to see if they work.”
So I sit by the newly installed wood stove, and plug in the lights. Only the red bulbs work. I toss them over my shoulder and grab the next string, which happen to be the white lights.
“Well, these are a little bit better,” I say to anyone listening. “At least one out of every five light bulbs work.”
So I toss those over my shoulder and grab the next strand.
“Ahh, now these work.”
I toss them over my other shoulder and grab the last string. Yes. Two whole wonderful strands of lights that work! We like to have white lights, though.
As we are discussing it, Dad comes in and says his famous line: “Do I need to go to town for more lights?”
We live in the country, and the nearest town is about a quarter-mile away, but it only consists of a church, post office, town hall, and a few houses. The nearest town that we can actually buy things in is about 20 minutes away, so going to town to get lights is not just a five minute trip. Dad, Jonathan, and I hop in the car and “run” to town. We stop at Walmart and go to the Christmas section. Wow! Those lights are expensive.
I say to Dad, “We could go to Menards.”
He, being the humorous person that he is, says, “Well, if we have to save big money, I guess we could go there.”
We end up not going. One of my sisters calls and says that we do not need to get any lights. I think to myself, “Good, they must have gotten them fixed.” So we go home and are told that the consensus without us was that we do not need white lights. So after about an hour of working on the lights, and Mom trying different bulbs from different strings in the white lights, and even blowing a few of the lights from the good strand, we end up not using white lights.
Decorating the now lit up Christmas tree is a big deal. We each have our own ornaments that we hang up. I have my own special ornament of a diaper pin that says “Baby’s First Christmas 1996” on the inside and has a picture of me as a baby. Apparently, because I was born on Christmas Day, 1996, it was debated whether ’96 was my first Christmas or not. Every year as I get taller, I hang it up higher. Well, now I can reach the top of the tree, but the last couple of branches at the top are reserved for Mom and Dad’s ornaments, so now I cannot hang it as high as I can reach.
Then comes the star. Once again we hear, “Can I do it?”
“You did it last year,” someone says as the argument forms.
“No, Sara did.”
“You guys, your memory is failing! Dad did it!” Then a chorus of “Oh yeah” follows.
At last, Mom reaches up to place the star at the very top. We all applaud as she lets go…and it flops down, almost touching the tree. Laughter follows as she takes it off, straightens it and places it back on the tree. It’s not terrible, but it could be better.
By now, the next CD is done, and we move on to decorating the rest of the house. Another excruciatingly long task. Within three hours, or less, it should be done. Well, maybe.
It is so easy for us to get caught up in the festiveness of Christmas. Some of us look forward to opening our presents, and seeing what things we got that were on our wish lists, and what we got that wasn’t on it.
But Christmas isn’t about the decorations, family, and getting or giving gifts that will not last. It is about the Gift that was given to us two thousand years ago. This gift wasn’t wrapped up all fancy with bows and ribbons. It wasn’t placed under the Christmas tree. It was placed in a manger; a feed box for animals!
This Gift was not some toy that we play with for three hours and then get tired of, this Gift was a baby. Baby Jesus, who was given to us by God, the Creator of the earth, the Creator of life. Jesus was the best gift ever, and even though this Gift was first given two thousand years ago, it is still being offered to those who will accept it. It is the free gift of salvation. Jesus was born into the world to die for us to satisfy God’s judgment for sin. This free Gift takes care of all the wrong things that we have ever done and will do, like lying, cheating, stealing, etc. All we have to do is to accept it. We can’t work for it or pay for it. If we did, it wouldn’t be a gift.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
Many people have accepted it, but even more have rejected it. The people who have accepted the gift, who trust Jesus as their Savior, will go to Heaven to live with God forever. They are right with God because Jesus bore their judgment. The people who reject Jesus will have to face God’s judgment with no hope. What have you done with this Gift – have you accepted it or rejected it?