Mid-December. Thirty-seven degrees below zero, sunny and no wind. Chickadees chirping, woodpeckers pecking, snow making crisp gasps under my boots. And me, moseying along the row of spruce trees in our side yard, loppers in hand. Humming Christmas. Jesus. Light.
I clip the lowest hanging boughs, the ones I know will interfere with the mower next summer. Spruce branches are nasty things to encounter while driving a lawn tractor.
Gleaning greens for natural Christmas decorations delights me as little else can during the season. I’d rather walk a treed aisle than any aisle in any store at any time of year. Or any church, for that matter.
Cutting boughs in weather cold enough to freeze one’s eyeballs made me move a little faster than normal, despite having to plough through snowdrifts. But I wanted to develop an idea that had come to me in the summer. Working alone in the crisp air, and later in both garage and kitchen, I watched it take shape.
I used the boughs to make loose nests of greenery, stapled to the top of several standing logs about knee high. In the center of each, I balanced a soccer-ball-sized globe of ice I’d made earlier, each slightly hollow. Occupied by a lit candle, the ice balls became luminaries that glow like the full moon that sits high in the sky as I write.
“Mom’s nuts about balls,” said my daughter once, cracking us both up with the unintended double entendre. She was right. Spheres of all kinds remind me of sun and moon, earth and planets; all the orbs God created and suspended in space with such awesome power and impeccable care.
Making the luminaries for friends and family this Christmas became an act of creative worship. As I hefted heavy balloons filled with water outside for freezing, and back inside again for peeling and draining; as I wielded clipper, stapler and hammer, as I inhaled the aromatic spruce vapours and felt the prick of their needles through my red Oh, Canada mittens – as I did all that, I imagined the finished products. Compelling, softly glowing beacons set against the backdrop of night. Just as I envisioned them.
“I am the Light of the World,” Jesus said. That’s the nugget at the very heart of Christmas. The bulbs and icicles with which we decorate our homes disappear in early January, but the light God placed in a prickly nest of straw inside a crude wooden manger will never be extinguished.
Like the candles in my luminaries, Jesus’ light shines through hearts aflame with a passion to know and follow him. People who have chosen to fill the God-crafted hollowness inside with his love and reflect it to an aching world. Not perfect people, mind you. Just people who keep the Jesus candle glowing. His candle. His light. Never their own.
Living luminaries, let’s call them. The most beautiful lights of all. And no spruce needed.
Blessed Christmas, friends. Don’t let the light go dark after December 25th.