When we first had our kids, my wife wanted a real tree. I told her that wouldn’t be practical because the sap would run out of the tree and the floor would get sticky. She then reminded me that we had two sons, and everything in the house was already sticky. Once again, I had to say, “You are right, Babe.”

It is a tradition in the Moore home that we put up our Christmas tree soon after we have eaten the last Thanksgiving leftover. I wish I had a home big enough so I could have a Christmas side of the house, and after the holiday season was over, I could shut down that side and not have to go through the trouble of taking everything down, packing it up and hauling it out to the shed. But when you have a house where the front door and the back door are the same, that isn’t an option. So let the migration of the Christmas decorations begin.

Our Christmas season always starts by setting up the Christmas tree and working our way out from there. We renew this tradition each year by erecting a fresh-cut plastic tree. As I drag it out of the box and into the living room, I notice it leaves a trail of needles behind me.  I am not sure why the needles are falling off; it may be due to its age, or maybe it is the molting season for fake pine trees.

After 20 years, this poor bargain-basement tree is beginning to thin out and display holes where once branches and needles proudly stood. After taking 15 minutes to put its three sections together, I spent the next three hours trying to find out which bulb is burned out.

When I bought this tree, I thought it was the kind that would allow the string of lights to keep burning even when one bulb burned out.  But I guess my Chinese language skills along with Google Translate didn’t do such a good job of reading the lettering on the box. And of course, trying to pry one of those little bulbs out of its socket takes as much effort as opening a new jar of pickles for the first time.

It is imperative that I get all the lights working, because soon, 6-year-old Titus the Honorable, our self-appointed light inspector, will show up to examine the tree. He has the eyes of an eagle and can spot a burnt-out bulb 50 feet away. And since his poppy can fix anything, Titus loves watching me repair things. I got all but six of the bulbs to work, and I know he is going to point all six and bug me until I can get them fixed.

I have worked and worked, trying different bulbs, but something must be wrong with the sockets. So we are starting a new tradition in the Moore family this year. If you ask me about those six darkened bulbs, I will tell you they are there to remind us to pray for the unreached people groups who have never heard of Jesus’ birth. I fear that next year, we will have even more of those darkened bulbs.

Now it is time for the ornaments to adorn the tree. I am not good at placing these baubles either strategically or artistically. When I was growing up, we had lights, then strings of popcorn and boxes of metallic tinsel. We were supposed to drape the strands of tinsel one by one, but as little kids, we grew tired after about the seventh strand, so we started throwing big globs of tinsel at the tree. Yes, I come from a long line of those who don’t have one gene for decorating.

Rite of passage: Christmas tree troubles - Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma 1

Walker’s first Christmas stocking from 1951.

But our tree does say two things: First, it says family. From the little stocking that my mom first hung up 68 years ago to mementos of my wife, kids, grandkids and daughters-in love, we have items that hang on our tree to represent each family member.

And in the midst of our family, we have our faith represented too. Nativity scenes, angels, stars and globes from the places around the world where we have served. When family and faith in Christ come together on that tree, we are ready for a Merry Christmas!

In the midst of all of this, we can’t forget about those six unlit bulbs. I pray that one of these days, someone will take the Gospel to those places, so the people there will know “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11, NASB). That’s the good news of Christmas—for every nation, tribe and tongue (see Rev. 7:9).