Despite what my family firmly believes, the Grinch does not live in Union Valley. Nope, that’s right; he is still residing on the mountaintop overlooking the cozy town of Hooville. However, after my afternoon experience today, I’m sensing a little green in my completion. But before you jump to conclusions, let me assure you, you’d be seeing green too were you have had the same experience I had. See, it’s simple. Take a perfectly prewired, pre-lit tree down 50 weeks prior, being careful to unplug the wires and pack it away ever so carefully. Then layout all the delicate decorations to adorn that very tree in great anticipation of perfection; all the while Christmas music playing in the background and then…then…massive failure! A true Pinterest flop! Tree is up, fluffed (that’s what you call when you straighten out the iron stiff limbs of your Douglass Fir), anticipation building, wire plugged in and tucked under the skirt, decorations waiting (the Little Drummer Boy pleading, “Pick me. Me first. Me first this year”), and the switch is thrown. Then thrown again. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Zippo. Darkness. Then the reality hit me, “Risinger, we have a problem.” A sense of urgency overcomes me as I frantically try to figure out what’s going on. As the Little Drummer Boy and the blue glitter snowman Bethany made 18 years ago begin to argue who’s getting to go first, I methodically check all the fuses. All good there, rats! The clamoring of the decorations intensifies as Andrew’s clothespin Rudolph and the animals of the hanging manger scene begin to get restless. I guess I would be too if I were wrapped in tissue paper for over a year, not seeing the light of day or having any nourishment. I recheck everything, I mean everything. Of all the strings of lights, only two of eight work. PANIC!!! Everything’s out and no lit tree anywhere in sight.

Options begin to flood my brain. Should I cut the bad ones off and restring? No, too much time and energy. Just hang new lights in with the bad ones? No, someone might see and think, “What’s Risinger doing now?” Find another Christmas tree out in the garage or attic? Poot, no such luck. We are a one living room tree family. (Though I know one family who has to have one in EVERY room. Overachiever, you know who you are.) So the reality sets in, a new tree must be procured. But I’m up for the challenge. I’ll bundle up with multiple layers of clothing, grab my insulated leather gloves, gas up my Stihl chainsaw, dawn my down lined boots and head on over to Hobby Lobby and pick my box right out of that forest of steel, plastic, rubber and pipe cleaners to look like tree bark trees.

And while I get my game-plan for our new tree, I trust you have begun to decorate yours. What a fun time of the year! I love Christmas, I always have and always will. I enjoy the decorations and quite honestly, looking at everyone’s Christmas trees has always delighted and interested me. I’ve long decided how a family decorates their tree says a lot about that family. I guess I have this childhood memory of my grandparents in Longview that I attribute this affinity. Granddaddy and Nanny had one of those trees that was made out of, what I will call, strips of foil. That’s right, Mylar? Seen them? They were the gaudy of gaudy and tacky!!! But wait, it gets better. The trees came with a light kit. The lamp illuminated the tree with a rotating wheel of colored lenses over it giving a nice 70’s psychelelic feel to Christmas. So where my grandparents were stuck in the 70’s for multiple decades, some are the vintage/traditionalists, some the minimalists with lights only, some, have to have to have everything just so and strive for balance and perfection, you see where I’m going with this? But you know what? I’ve never seen a tree without a top. Each tree I’ve seen over the years has been topped with a something special, a proclaiming angel heralding the birth of Jesus, a bow, or better yet, a star! That’s my favorite, a star!

But here’s the thing, be it a star, bow, angel, or whatever your family uses, they all do the same thing, they draw our attention upward. And oh how fitting that is that during Christmas our attention is drawn upward toward the heavens. For you see, were it not for the man that resides up there, we’d have no Christmas at all. See, he made the decision to send his son (that would be baby Jesus) to be born in the manger but then that little boy would grow up and die on the cross for you and me. So though the Easter story may seem harsh and offensive to some, I’ve always said, you can’t celebrate Christmas unless you realize Easter goes along with the story.

So that brings me to our Annual Christmas Eve at the Hardware Store service. This year’s theme, “A Star Is Born” speaks of just what I mentioned. All those years ago the greatest star that would ever walk the earth was born. His name, Jesus, may never appear on the sidewalk of Hollywood Blvd, but it is written on the hearts and lives of millions through the centuries. Make plans now to join us for one of the most unique Christmas Eve services you will ever experience. You and your family will thoroughly enjoy it, I promise. See you there.

Merry Christmas!
Your star-gazing hardware store owner,