The Magi Visit the Messiah
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. - Matthew 2:1-12
While, for me, the Christmas season doesn't really end until I go back to work on the 9th of January, three days hence, I saw my first Christmas tree sitting at the curbside waiting for disposal, last Monday, the 2nd of January. This brought back a number of memories.
As I was out for my first real physical exercise in months (which I told you about here) I saw a pile of leaves on the sidewalk before me, next to what I thought was a low growing bush. As I got closer, wondering how the leaves had managed to stay on the sidewalk given the constant wind we get in these parts, I saw that the bush was actually a discarded tree. I was nearly overwhelmed by sadness as I pictured this tree, not eight days earlier, covered in decorations and lights, with colorfully wrapped presents underneath. I could almost hear the happy cries of children as they came into the room and saw the tree, in all it's glory.
I remember when our kids had gone off to bed the night we set our tree up. The Missus Herself and I sipping a warm beverage and just admiring the lights. With candles in the windows and the tree all lit up, no other lights were needed. The soft glow spoke of peace, of happiness, of warmth when outside all was cold and dark.
I remember the same feelings when I was a child, that last glimpse of the tree before heading into the bedroom, counting the days until Christmas was here.
As all things must, Christmas passes. It returns, but not for all who were there in Christmases past. My Christmases are always, in some ways, haunted by those who are no longer in the room with us. This haunting though is not an evil thing, not at all. The spirits of those we loved will never be far away. They have simply gone to a place where we cannot follow. Well, not immediately anyway. Someday we all make that journey.
Well, this one particular Christmas we had a lot of snow. Apparently there would be no trash pick up until the following week. Rather than put the tree down where the curb lay under three feet of snow, Dad simply put it next to the front steps. Saved him a trip out into the cold and, truth be told, the tree would probably be a hazard to navigation. With each snowfall our street would get more and more narrow until it was hard to get two cars to pass each other. This was one of those winters.
So there was the tree, sitting forlorn by the front door, still with bits of tinsel in its branches. My brother, The Olde Vermonter, and I went out to play. It may have been he who mentioned how sad it made him to see that lovely tree, which we had decorated and opened gifts under on Christmas Day, now sitting there awaiting who knows what fate.
At that moment, my brother and I, probably within milliseconds of each other, had the idea to take the tree up into the woods. Why let the trashman take this beautiful emblem of our beloved holiday away? Why not take the tree back to where it came from, the woods.
So we did. Halfway up the hill, Dad came out and inquired just what the two of us were up to. (Not that us dragging the tree up the hill was bad or anything, just odd.) When we informed him, he bid us, "carry on." Didn't bother him one way or the other. Also saved him having to haul it down to the curb.
We found a good spot. Kind of sheltered and kind of easy to find again. We thought it was perfect. With some dignity we laid the tree there. Silently we stood there for a few moments, thinking back to how beautiful the tree looked in the house on Christmas Day. Then, without saying much, we trudged back down out of the woods and went about our business. Building snow forts, sledding, perhaps even a bit of street football. Anything to enjoy the snow while it lasted.
Later, in the New Year, The Olde Vermonter, I'm sure it was he, coined the term, "The Christmas Tree Graveyard." I liked it, it was fitting, it was respectful, at least we thought so. My parents asked where that was, we wouldn't tell. Only my brothers and I knew the location, we would never reveal that. Yes, the youngest of my brothers, The Musician, also knew the location, when he got older he would help take the tree to its final resting place.
Perhaps one day, when I'm up north in the ancestral lands once more, I'll go into the forest and see if I can find the Christmas Tree Graveyard. Probably not, it's been nearly forty years since I've walked in that forest. A long time ago. But even if the spot has changed, even if I can't find it.
The memory remains.
And that, I suppose, has to be enough.