It started back in 1895 when Fred Woodbury planted 134 seedlings of an exotic cedar species, known as deodars, that were native to the Himalayan region of India. They were located along the sides of the entry driveway to his family’s large estate. By 1920, the row of trees had become recognized as a local symbol of Christmas. This 1938 photo shows how the trees were lit annually, and cars drove up “Christmas Tree Lane” to take in the magic of the season.
But today, things are different. The drive up the lane is still breathtaking, because you feel surrounded by lights.* But where are the trees? They’ve become so large that you can’t make out their shape; you have to be told they once looked like Christmas trees.
This seems to be a parable about how easy it is for Christmas to lose its shape. It started to be about a miraculous Baby being born into the human race to become our Savior. Since then, all sorts of characters have been added, from ancient ones (angels, shepherds, wise men) to modern ones (Santa, Rudolph, elves, drummer boys). And then there are the gifts and shopping and tinsel and lights — lights all over the place. It’s so confusing. It’s hard to make out the shape of the Baby who came to save us. It’s as if the activity is obscuring the Nativity; the multitude of lights are conspiring to keep us from seeing the Light.
– Pastor George Van Alstine
*You want to take a nostalgic trip through the canopy of lights without leaving the comfort of your iPhone? Here’s a YouTube journey: