‘Tis the season where more and more Christmas trees can be found lying on curbsides and garbage piles. It makes me so sad, this mass purging of trees from homes. I’m not sure if it feels like Christmas has been all used up and tossed out with the rest of the torn wrapping paper and trash, or if it’s that the tree is still so green, so alive looking that makes me sad.
I want to collect them all and make a little forest. I want to bring them into my home during the whole season of winter and let their greenness say daily that this is not the end. There will be green days again. There will be a spring.
Once upon a time I was a youth pastor, and I was thinking about the trees and about symbols and Christmas and Easter. I found a tree and brought it into our youth room during Advent. After Christmas, when it began to shed its needles, we took it outside and gave it some dignity, letting it stay standing. It turned fully brown, and its branches began to droop, but did not drop all its needles. We put a sign on it: “Do Not Throw Away”.
At the beginning of Lent we sawed off all the branches and wired them together in one long piece. I’d intended it to be straight, but the branches sagged and dried that way, so it ended up being more of an arc. When we finished we attached it perpendicular to the now-bare trunk, made a cross, and brought it back inside. Our Christmas tree cross was so ugly, and so beautiful. The sagging cross section looked like tired, limp arms as they hung there.
I don’t remember what happened to the tree after Easter, but that was the only time I can remember feeling satisfied and at peace about the lifecycle of the Christmas tree. I hope someone took it home and used it for firewood, to kindle the flame of the Advent wreath candle on the first day Advent the following year.