Just last night, my family decided to attend the City of Riverside Festival of Lights. The Festival is really quite special, as the Mission Inn (one of the twenty something missions Catholic missionaries built that spurred the beginning of California) is decorated with millions of lights and faux carolers and the downtown city walk is full of people and vendors and singers and food carts (the typical fare- kettle corn, chocolate, gingerbread something or others…). Anyway, the festival is a wonderful walk and provides lots of light and time for conversation about remembering this or that Christmas song or how the city has grown. In many ways, it is a time to consumerize (a word?) the season (and the Festival starts right next to the Occupy Riverside!), but in many other ways it is a chance to be wowed and a chance to be thankful as we gather memories of Christmas songs, Christmas trees, holiday food and trips to the Mission Inn.
Yes, I did mention Christmas trees. Lots of them. The Festival winds itself from University Boulevard through the downtown city walk to the Riverside Convention Center, where at least 100 trees were set up, decorated and purchased by businesses and schools in the area, and the money donated to charity. But the trees were beautiful…and unique…and funny. Trees decorated like a Silver Christmas (silver bells and garland with lots of light- a favorite of mine) and decorated for soldiers coming home and decorated in baking tools or decorated in Mario Brothers. So wonderful! Here are a couple pictures (sorry, pictures aren’t great with my phone):
But, when I saw the trees it made me wonder about the meaning of the Christmas tree. This also happened to come up as we put up our family Christmas tree after Thanksgiving too. The tree, as I have heard it as times, represents wood which Christ died on. But that seems so contrived because the tree looks nothing like it. But as I see it, the Christmas tree represents nothing but family. The tree is the center of activity of a lot of memories about community, family, giving, receiving, sharing, fellowshipping. Perhaps the tree is not so much a direct symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus, but a symbol of the people of Jesus. It should be the gathering place where gratitude and giving meet as the family of God. From there, meaning becomes quite personal. The tree reminds me of the giving of gifts by my precious grandfather, and it reminds me constantly of great food and fellowship of my zany and sometimes feed off chaos family. And often it reminds me of the centrality of children, like when me and my cousins surrounded the tree and its bounty with all of our parents and uncles and aunts watching. Perhaps there is something there- that the tree represents community, that it represents gratitude and its consequence generosity, and that it also represents joy, a joy which only touches on the purest joy we know as Christians. At that tree, we as kids and as adults get a chance to tap into the great joy, a chance to taste a little of the ultimate joy of God. Now that is some meaning.
My curiosity wants to ask- what meaning do you find in a Christmas tree? How is that communicated to you or your kids or family? What memories does the tree spur in your life? Blessings!