It’s Christmastime in Sioux Center. Snow is on the ground and wreaths line the streetlights along Highway 75.
Any day now, my mother will begin with my favorite holiday tradition — making peanut butter balls. My parent’s house is already the picture of a merry Christmas with a big artificial tree decked out in reds and golds and the handmade stockings hanging on top of the gun cabinet.
But my house looks the same as ever.
I’ve lived on my own for five years now, and each year around this time, the same conversation comes up: So when are you putting up a Christmas tree?
The answer is always the same: I won’t be.
It’s not that I don’t like Christmas or the decorations that come with the season, but it’s never been something I’ve wanted to bother with myself.
Growing up, I’ve always helped my mother with putting the decorations up after Thanksgiving, but I never thought about going through all that in a place of my own.
It’s mostly the practical side of it that I can’t get over.
I’ve lived in apartments for these last several years, and storage space is always the most precious commodity. Taking up all that good usable space for a big Christmas tree and decorations that’ll only be used for a couple of months? No thanks.
I have been offered tabletop Christmas trees by family, but I’ve turned those down, too. Having just one tiny, lone spot of Christmas only highlights the lack of holiday spirit everywhere else and just seems so halfhearted.
What’s better to me is the all-or-nothing approach, and so far in life “nothing” has served me well.
Maybe someday that will all change, and I’ll have the urge to pick up a big tree and spend a day getting it decorated. Next year is another year.
Besides, as every Christmas special that will play on TV in the next month will tell you, it’s not the decorations or the gifts that matter. And Halloween is a more fun holiday to decorate for anyway.
Leaving the Christmas trees and the like behind, my favorite part of the season is the hymns that come with this Advent season. The hymns of Christmas do a wonderful job of setting the Christian mind upon the wonder of Christ’s incarnation in a broken world that will reject him.
I like hymns anyway (which are superior in every way to the contemporary praise and worship music that seems to have infected every Protestant church), but it’s these songs more than anything that mark for me the coming of Christmas.
One of my favorites, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” was written during the Civil War and bears the message for holy patience in the midst of suffering.
“And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said; ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men!’
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, ‘God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”