Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

I can remember when I was a young boy how we always used to go into the woods around our home to cut down our Christmas tree. There always seemed to be the perfect pine just waiting for us to cut down and decorate with happy hearts.

One year, though, when I was no more than five years old I was allowed to go on the tree hunt. As we hiked through the woods I saw probably the ugliest, most lopsided, and scraggly pine tree ever. To my five year old heart, however, it seemed like a great choice.

I can remember my Dad cutting it down over my brothers' protests and my Mom decorating the weak, sagging limbs as best she could. I still have an old picture my brother and me standing in front of the world's ugliest Christmas tree. What warms my heart about this memory is that my Mom and Dad didn't mind if the tree didn't look good or decorate up nicely. They only cared that I loved it and wanted it for our tree. They knew that the true meaning of Christmas didn't come from the lights, decorations, or presents. They knew the true meaning of Christmas came from the love and joy we shared with each other and the love that God had for each and everyone of us.

My Mom and Dad didn't mind if the tree didn't look good or decorate up nicely.
These days my tree is artificial and I smile when I look in the woods and think of all the ugly, little Christmas trees I am saving by having it. The love and joy I share with my family and everyone else remains the same, though, at Christmas time and all through the year. It is a glorious gift from God that keeps on giving and giving and giving.

John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote, "Somehow not only for Christmas but all the long year through, the joy that you give others is the joy that comes back to you."

Merry Christmas to you. May your tree always be full of light and your heart always be full of love no matter if your tree is scraggly, artificial, or perfect.