Let tinsel sparkle throughout the year
We should all be so persistent. That’s what I usually think when I see it, and this time of year there’s plenty to go around. Naturally, I’m talking about tinsel.
I never thought much about why it graces our Christmas trees, until I came across a legend related by William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible series.
The legend says that when Joseph, Mary and Jesus were fleeing to Egypt, they became weary as evening drew on and sought refuge in a cave. It was very cold, so cold that the ground was white with hoarfrost.
Now, a little spider saw the Baby Jesus, and wished that it could do something to keep the baby warm during the cold night. The spider decided to do the only thing it could: It spun a web across the entrance of the cave to make, as it were, a curtain there.
A short while later, a detachment of Herod’s soldiers came along, seeking little boys to kill in order to carry out Herod’s order. When they came to the cave entrance, they were about to burst in and search it, but their captain noticed the spider’s web covered with white hoarfrost stretched across the entrance to the cave.
“Look at the spider’s web there,” he said. “It is unbroken, so there cannot possibly be anyone in the cave, for anyone entering would certainly have torn the web.”
So, the soldiers passed on and left the Holy Family in peace — all because a little spider had spun its web across the entrance to the cave.
Barclay then writes: “And that, so they say, is why to this day we put tinsel on our Christmas trees, for the glittering tinsel streamers stand for the spider’s web, white with hoarfrost stretched across the entrance of the cave in which the Holy Family stopped and found shelter on the way to Egypt.
“It is a lovely story, and this much, at least, is true: No gift that Jesus receives is ever forgotten.” (Adapted from “Sower’s Seeds That Nurture Family Values” by Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.)
By now, your Christmas tree and its decorations may only be a memory. But one thing is certain: You didn’t get all the tinsel picked up. Try as you might, some of it has escaped your attention and is now discreetly embedded in the carpet or stuck in the cushions of a chair or clinging to some fold in a curtain. Rest assured, it will resurface later in the year . . . like in the middle of the summer.
Tinsel really is magical stuff. Its persistence in refusing to be all gathered up at this time of year is a gift from God. It reminds us that the spirit of Christmas is not to be limited to a particular time of year. Rather, we are called to reflect the light of Christ — to be generous, compassionate, welcoming — each and every day of the year. As tinsel refuses to be swept away until next Christmas, so, too, our love and concern for others should remain persistent and visible.
A comedian once remarked that although he was impressed with all of the concern for the less fortunate at this time of year, especially through gifts of food to those who have little, he wondered: “Don’t people think that others are hungry on the Fourth of July, too?”
It’s a good observation. The same people that are needy at Christmastime are going to be needy all through the year. Wouldn’t it be great to adopt a family, not just “for Christmas,” but “for as long as needed”? Wouldn’t it be great if the gift-giving of the holiday season were carried on right up to next Christmas?
Why not make 2006 “tinsel time”? Resolve that every time you see some tinsel that you missed cleaning up, you consider it a small reminder from the Lord to keep alive the love of Christmas by going out and doing something that will bring a bit of light into another person’s life.
And for those superb housekeepers who can’t sleep until each and every strand of tinsel is picked up, fudge a little in this new year. Recruit some family members to intentionally hide some around the house, just to ensure that all through the year you’re reminded of the light that you’re to reflect for others.
As the Scriptures tell us, whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we truly do for Christ. And, as the legend above reminds us, Jesus never forgets any gift that he receives.