Christmas Devotionals: Keepin’ It Real

My dad always insisted on a real tree.  Sometime in December, we wandered around the Christmas tree lot, everyone searching for the one perfect tree full of pine needles and vibrant green.

Somehow we always chose trees that were fat and wide and typically too tall for our ceiling.  When we hauled the tree home, my dad had to lop off the bottom until it fit in the stand.  Some years, we still couldn’t top it off with the angel or star.

There was always the lingering suggestion that perhaps it would be easier and cheaper and neater to tuck an artificial tree away in the garage and just pull it out of the box each December.

But for my dad, this suggestion would destroy Christmas.  There are no substitutes for a real tree, he’d say, despite my mom’s suggestion to burn pine-scented candles or potpourri.

This, after all, was his only contention—that no matter how good an artificial tree looked, it would never smell the same as a real tree.

Christmas smelled like pine.

I think about my dad and how he made us all trek every year to choose the real Christmas tree.  Mostly, I think about him while I’m pulling the various wired limbs of my own artificial tree out of the box.

I’ve never been a convert, per se, to the need for a real live tree that smells like real live pine. I’m more of a sucker for convenience and control and a bargain.

Yet, as I hunkered down inside my wool coat and pushed through the wind into the Wal-Mart the other day, I lightly brushed the branches of a Christmas tree leaned against the front of the store.

And there it was…the scent of pine carried on cold air.

It was real.

All of those years growing up with sticky sap-covered branches, pine needles scattered on the carpet and my parents crawling under the tree to water it, I never truly “got it.”  I never once smelled the scent of pine that my dad loved so much.

It took the incidental brushing against a tree on the Wal-Mart sidewalk for me to understand the appeal…and to breathe deep the air and think of the beauty and feel newly reminded that Christmas is here.

Perhaps we need reminders because it’s so easy to forget.

In fact, sometimes we’re so busy trying to “remember” that we bury ourselves deep in endless tradition-making, busyness, activity, have-to’s and must-do’s that suck the life and energy right out of us.

Oh, I understand the feeling like it just can’t be Christmas without….

For me, it’s not so much the scent of the pine tree as the sound of the Christmas music.  We played it all season when I was a child.  But every time I flick on the radio for the “all-Christmas all-the-time,” my own kids protest.  They balk and whine.  Why can’t we just listen to the same ten songs we like and listen to every other time of the year?

My daughter complains for an entire half-hour drive, slumps herself in the back seat of the mini-van and announces, “Well, I won’t sing to it.”

Kind of sucks the joy right out of the carols.

And I understand the desire to make Christmas powerful and lasting.  For many of us, we’re just trying to stay Christ-focused and giving-centered.  But we set ourselves up for failure at times by trying to heap on so much to make it “really” Christmas.

Why not make this new tradition and that….read this devotional, light these candles, do these acts of kindness, bake these goodies, sing these songs, visit these places, take these pictures, make these crafts…..all in one year.

All of that effort to make Christmas seem real, to infuse it with magic and memories.

Yet, truly it’s just a simple thing.  So, we can breathe in and breathe out and relax into the celebration.

We’re singing it this year in our church Christmas cantata:

“This is salvation.  This is redemption.  A Child is born.  A Son is given.”

What more is needed?

All the rest we can do or not do.  We can enjoy, but not stress about.  We can choose the live tree or pull out the fake one in the Rubbermaid container.  We can sing.  We can bake.  We can light the candle and make the gift.  We can pop the popcorn and watch Rudolph or Snoopy or the Grinch.

Or not.

It doesn’t change Christmas.  Christ is all we really need for that.

The angels said it simply: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Are you finding ways to keep Christmas simple this year?

Christian Writers Blog Chain

Today’s post is part of the December topic, ‘Christmas Scents/Sense’ by the Blog Chain. You can click on the links on the right side of this page to read more articles in this series.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

15 thoughts on “Christmas Devotionals: Keepin’ It Real

  1. Carol Peterson says:

    Well said, Heather. I love how you reminded us that we can do this or that or whatever. It’s all good because Jesus is above it all, through it all, in it all, with us all. Perfect!

    P.S. I’ve got the fake tree and the real pine hearth garland and door wreath. AND the pine candles. (smile) Mostly I have Jesus.

  2. Amber Lea says:

    Great post Heather! Many times I’ve had to remind myself of why we are celebrating Christmas in the first place, after getting too stressed out from trying to make everything just right. The importance should be on “why” we are celebrating, not so much on “how”. Thanks for sharing.

    I have added your blog to The Blog Scratchers Union (#TBSU). It’s a way of sharing more of the blogs we enjoy and spreading the word to others. If you or any of your followers would like more information on how it works, please check out

    Thank you, and have a great weekend. 🙂 God bless! – Amber

    • Heather C. King says:

      I stress over that exact same thing, making everything just right. We have the best intentions, but it’s so easy to burden ourselves needlessly and miss out on enjoying the true reason for Christmas. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the info about #TBSU. I’ll have to check that out!

  3. Tracy Krauss says:

    It is true that many people are so busy creating the ‘perfect’ Christmas that it almost passes them by. We’ve done many things over the years that have become tradition, but I usually find that the ones that are the most memorable are the simple things – the things that didn;t take so much effort and yet become part of our lives year after year anyway.

  4. Bill Jones says:

    Thanks Heather – great post – and a great line “Christmas smelled like pine”. It did at our house, and one reason was it was several years before there were any artificial trees.

  5. Chris Vonada says:

    Hey Heather, this is excellent!! I also love a real tree, the whole experience from going to get the tree to hauling it out to the street to be recycled. This year I am taking two weeks off from writing, starting this Wednesday. Merry Christmas!!

    • Heather C. King says:

      I hope you enjoy a Christmas break from writing and that God refreshes you and inspires you for the new year! I’m thinking of taking some time to enjoy with my kids while they are off school. It’s good for us to rest and renew periodically! Merry Christmas!

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