Some people are collectors and some are not. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who keeps everything that comes my way. I get the trait honestly, as my parents were collectors. Anyone who was raised before the Great Depression and lived through World War II, as they did, were probably collectors. How many times did I hear my father say, “Let’s not throw it away, we might need it sometime.”
The disciples were not collectors as they left their homes and most of their meager belongings to follow Christ. What if one of them had said to Jesus, “I need to take this used plow, fishing net, pair of sandals, and extra coat with me” or “Jesus, can you wait until I get my house in order before we go?”
My wife Nancy is not a collector. Many times we have thrown away something that I thought we might need sometime. However, one thing we have jointly collected and have never thrown away are Christmas decorations. We have a collection of ornaments, trees, snow globes, wooden reindeer, trains, candles, nativity scenes, wooden Santas and many other items related to Christmas. Much of our collection is probably outdated. Some are old and have literally fallen apart. Yet, we add to the collection each year when new Christmas items appear.
We even have a tree that snows with Lionel trains circling underneath. Now, explaining that you have a tree that snows is complicated, yet we have such. The snow is actually plastic beads similar to those found in a beanbag chair. They are recycled to the top of the tree with a little motor about the size of a hair dryer. The plastic snow falls down and collects on the limbs of the tree. Years ago I was explaining to Bishop Will Willimon and his wife Patsy that we had a tree that snowed. As I explained about the tree, I was not sure they were on the same page with my story, so I sent him a hand full of snow (plastic beads) in a Christmas Card. He never did comment on the card. He probably wondered who this crazy Conference Lay Leader was with this story of a snowing Christmas tree.
One of the most unusual things Nancy and I have collected are the paper angels that First United Methodist of Alexander City put on a tree each December to let Church members provide gifts to children who may lack presents for Christmas. The angel has a description of a gift item. The member who takes the angel buys the item and then the Church delivers that gift at Christmas. Since this program was started at First Church about 25 to 30 years ago, we have taken an angel each year and then returned the gift to the church for a local child.
We started collecting the angels and putting them on a small tree. The collection has grown to the point that we now use a 4-foot lighted tree to display our paper angel collection. Some of the paper angels are nearly 30 years old and fragile. We take extra care in storing them for use each year.
The collection means a lot to us. With their being so much materialism at Christmas, this tree reminds us there are so many that have so little. We have never known any of the children who received the presents we purchased. Some of them are now probably 35 or 40 years old with children of their own. I just hope we have made some kid have a little better Christmas because they got one gift for which they asked.
I have attached a picture of our “Angel Tree.” It’s the brightest and the shiniest of all our decorations, because it is the one thing in our collection that represents something we have shared with others at Christmas.
I hope each person who reads this blog has an Angel tree of some kind in your Christmas life. Sharing is the greatest gift one can receive.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Steve and Nancy Lyles