This year, as I unpacked our fragile angel tree topper, I felt somewhat prepared for her condition. Each Christmas the impact of her years is unmisable, even more so since our Christmases are frequently on our boat. Though carefully tucked away in a protective box, a boat is no place for such fragility. Once again her head, reattached with glue just last year, was seperate from her torso. A thicker layer of glue now forms an ugly necklace around her delicate neck. Her wax candle has discolored even more and barley recognizable as it extends from her mishapen hand. But as always, and perhpas even more each year, I love her. I love her not only becasue of the sweet memoireis I have of her in her splendid early years, but also becasue with passing time I am reminded of the fragility of life. This year I am mindful of the treasure of each day and thankful for a God who loves us and holds our future. So here again is the retelling of a lesson I learned many Christmases ago as I sat in the quiet of my livingroom, a lesson that I will never forget each year she is placed on our tree in all her glory.
I’m not sure where she came from. (update: someone recognized her and informed me she is a Nuremberg angel!) I’m not even certain of her age. (update: As a Nuremberg angel, we probably acquired her when my family lived in Germany when dad was in the Air Force…this would make her well over 50 yrs!)
She sat atop the Christmas tree for many of my growing up years, quietly presiding over each holiday season. I acquired her from my mother many years ago.
Her gold foil, cardboard wings, once ended in perfect points extending her stature to seven inches. Now her wing span is slightly reduced, as the tips went from being slightly bent, to folded, until they eventually tore off. Her dark red velvet dress, trimmed with gold brick brack, fits snuggly to her waist before flowing over her cardboard form. Her once silky, radiant white hair, now hangs in brittle coils around her shoulders. A little gold foil halo covers a place on her head where some of her hair has given way to the passage of time.
Her head and hands are made of wax, as is the candle she holds in one hand. I remember her as a beautiful lady, her face perfect and delicate. Those qualities are now faded. Her head, once held high and straight, has melted somewhat. It now bows lovingly downward and a bit to the right. Two years ago a significant amount of time and effort was put into re-attaching her long held candle to her now miss shaped hand. Yep, she’s a bit of mess you might say. I like that about her.
She doesn’t light up or sparkle, and quite often she is too small for the tree, making her look even more out of place. But I look forward to her presence in my living room each Christmas. Late at night, when the tree is lit and others have gone on to bed, I find myself thinking of her and all we have in common.
I too, know what it’s like to have my wings bent and torn. I know what it feels like when your body gives itself over to the challenges of time. My hair is no longer silky or radiant, and I only wish had a halo to hide the places where it has become thin. I understand the sagging of her shoulders and the bowing of her head. I have felt the weight every mother bears for her family. I know the need to bow my head in constant prayer. I love her imperfection. She’s a holiday reminder that God loves us in our imperfection.
A love full of grace, a savior born to take on the sin of the world, a reason to celebrate, reflected in the melted features and unraveled edges of our Christmas tree Angel.