We have ALWAYS had an angel on top of our Christmas tree. He/she (I’m not actually sure) presides over each of our Christmas seasons with bright, white-lighted aplomb. She/he is up there because the angels brought the message about the coming Messiah to Mary, and then to Joseph, and finally to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. It is a glorious symbol of Christmas. Or perhaps it’s on our tree there because we have ALWAYS had an angel atop the tree. It’s tradition, and we all know how hard it is to break traditions during Christmas.
This year, I came down one morning to find that while the rest of the lights on our Christmas tree shined and twinkled, the angel was startlingly dark. The matter was turned over to my father, who subsequently spent an entire evening haggling with the angel about its tiny little bulbs and infinitesimal fuse. Victory was his, though. The next night I saw that the angel had been returned to its sentry post atop the evergreen. It even seemed to glow that much brighter, as if invigored by its new luminous supplies. In fact, the angel was practically a searchlight now, illuminating not only the top of the tree, but the entire side of the room.
“Uh, dad. Why is the angel so bright now? I mean, it’s obnoxiously bright now.” (Haters gotta hate.)
His faintly irritable response was perhaps suggestive of the lengthy wrestling match he already had had with the contraption and my unappreciative response to his hard work. In any case, it was intimated that he was done with the angel, and if we weren’t happy with its current lumen level, we could take up the project ourselves. My mom and I couldn’t leave it alone.
Tipping precariously on a leather ottoman, my mom (she’s the tallest), gently unplugged and removed the angel from the noble fir (My dad won’t allow any other kind of tree in the house if he can help it. Like I said, traditions.) She plugged it back in at the kitchen counter and nothing happened. No lights came on at all. Again. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that all the bulbs had just burned out. Somehow, it had overloaded its wiring and exhausted its bulbs for a second time as we removed it from the tree. We gave up. Neither of us had the patience my father had the night before to fix him/her.
So no angel. Or really, no lighted angel. She/he still perches on the tree, and I sit and wonder how much it means to me to either try to fix the angel myself or replace it entirely. If I replaced it, now might be the best time to perhaps buck tradition and go with a star rather than an angel. Gasp!
It got me thinking, though, what symbol would be most appropriate for atop our Christmas tree? What sign from the story of Christmas draws my attention to the coming Messiah more: the star that drew the magi from the East to worship the newborn King or the angels that acted as couriers and announcers for what God was about to do for his beloved world?
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
The Christmas season in general is agog with symbols and signs that hold the promise and proclamation of the Christ: Christmas trees, gifts, candles, wreaths, candy canes. The list goes on. My favorite is the Christmas lights. I love all the Christmas lights that brighten our neighborhoods during these dark weeks that surround the winter solstice. If you have ears to hear, they whisper, “Jesus is the light of the world.”
We are surrounded by these symbols, but let us not allow their saturation to reduce their capacity to point us to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whether it is an angel, a star, or some other symbol atop your tree, let it, and all the other signs of Christmas, direct your heart to ponder what God has done for us in the sending of his son, Emmanuel, God With Us.
P.S. Want to find out more about what some of our Christmas symbols mean, check out this site: http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=1491