Is Christmas only a tree? by Fr. Bryan Wolf

Liturgically, we are still in the Christmas season. The Epiphany is approaching. Traditionally, these twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany known as The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Yep, that’s where the song comes from!   Christ was born on blessed Christmas Eve and the radiant star was born above Bethlehem.  It was once believed that it took twelve days from the appearance of the star, for the Magi to make their way to Bethlehem. Hence, the “twelve days of Christmas” and the celebration of the Epiphany.

I propose herewith, an interesting observation.  We have not even celebrated the New Year  and already I see many who have discarded their Christmas trees outside.  I have seen neighbors take down Christmas lights from their homes and remove decorative wreaths from their front doors.  I am bewildered.  Is Christmas over?  Then again, is Christmas only a tree?

I know every year I do hear those who complain that Christmas seems to begin earlier.  My husband employed in retail, serves evidence of this as the Christmas music in his store begins right after Halloween.  Indeed, the store decorations and stock of holiday items march in at the same time.  But one cannot deny, there begins a hint of anticipation in the air.  As Christmas draws closer, it builds- like an overture.

People being to decorate. Christmas trees pop up. Santa rides into town on his sleigh at the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. The world becomes joyful. Those who are first, and perhaps foremost, in the decorating frenzy- echo the same sentiment, I needed a little Christmas!  Just like the lyrics of that popular song from Mame- “I need a little Christmas, right this very minute…”

It is indeed theraputic. Christmas. Christ. Does any other season offer the possibility of hope and peace, as Christmas?  We cannot deny that images and thoughts of Christ heal us.  More at this time of year then any other, except perhaps Easter.  But Christmas builds like the aforementioned overture. Musically all around us- in both audible and visual stimulation. Like a giant celebration played out to cheer the heart and kindle the spirit within.  Why then, do we let is go so quickly?

We have ridden the wave of anticipation and excitement for many weeks. Christmas is coming!  Its promise and its joy.  How can we be content to let it slip from us for another year?  Hide it in a box? Watch it wilt at the curbside?

In 1955 Bing Crosby recorded a lesser known Christmas carol, Is Christmas only a tree?  Perhaps this is the answer.  “Is Christmas only a tree? Just falling snow and candle glow and mistletoe?  Frosted air, angel hair and Christmas carols everywhere?  Is Christmas only a tree?  I seem to see beyond the tree, to where the angels sing.  Hosanna ring to heaven’s king and my heart is answering.  Is Christmas only a tree?  The answer is from long ago, for whever there is a Christmas tree, my heart will know.

But those visual affirmations can help. They serve to keep the spirit of Christmas- the promise of Christmas- of Christ, alive and present. So let us not be to quick to take down the Christmas tree.  There are those of us who find our personal spirit dampened at the departure of the season. How can we keep the joy of Christmas in our hearts year ’round?

Just by remembering the JOY of the Christmas season, with this easy formula-  JOYJ is for Jesus, O is for Others and Y is for Yourself.  If you keep Jesus and Others before Yourself… you will have JOY.   And holding onto that Christmas tree a little longer may help too. Either way though, pray never to loose the Christmas spirit!

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