• Kelly Neff

"O Christmas Tree" ~ Lessons from a Fir

Updated: Jan 29, 2019



In case you were wondering, it is not a typo or a saying from the south, the title is Lessons from "a Fir", not "afar." For those of you who knew Randy's humor, you know he would have repeated this play on words over and over, loudly and proudly chuckling about how funny he is. I thought y'all would appreciate that and I hope heaven is filled with his booming laughter right now!


As Christmas draws closer and closer, my spirits continue to decline despite my best efforts. It feels as if a heavy weight is pressing in on me from all sides seeking to crush me into nothingness. At the same time, I have a hollow, empty feeling that permeates my entire being and makes me physically nauseous.


One of the ways I have been trying to keep a positive focus is by playing Christmas music every day. I play it from the time I come downstairs in the morning until I turn out the lights and go upstairs for the night.


I have always loved music. I have used it to move my mind away from difficult thoughts and lift my spirits for most of my life. Music has always stirred something deep inside me. I have personally found it to be an effective tool to help change my mood, to motivate, and even inspire me creatively.


I remember getting my first Walkman cassette player for Christmas in junior high. As an adolescent, I used music instinctively to drown out the "noise" going on in my mind, not consciously aware of why I loved it so much. Back then my go-to tunes were usually Michael Jackson songs. Much to the dismay of my children, I will still ‘bust a move' out in public if I hear Michael. LOL!


I have been missing Randy greatly, so I decided to play some of the classic Christmas music that he loved. I heard the song O Christmas Tree and was unsure of some of the words (something I am famous for in my family!), so I began to research the lyrics online. The first known lyrics to Tannenbaum date back to 1550. The best-known version was written by Ernst Anschutz in 1824, to the melody of an old folk tune. The lyrics that captured my attention are from one of at least a dozen English versions of this old German Christmas Carol by unknown authors.


O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,

How steadfast are your branches!

Your boughs are green in summer's clime

And through the snows of wintertime.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

How steadfast are your branches!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Your boughs can teach a lesson

That constant faith and hope sublime

Lend strength and comfort through all time.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,

Your boughs can teach a lesson.


A Tannenbaum is a fir tree, and its qualities are the inspiration for these lyrics. The author is comparing the ability of the fir tree to maintain its green color, no matter the season, to consistency and faithfulness, which bring strength and comfort. The lyrics call us to learn from this comparison.

The last several days have been increasingly difficult as I recognize the magnitude of all I have lost. Receiving gifts from the one you love makes you feel special, loved, and cared for. As I ponder what it will feel like on Christmas Day without Randy, it overwhelms me with feelings of despair. I feel lost and lonely to a depth I have never felt before.


Honestly, I feel like I am being hit back and forth like a tennis ball in a match between Venus and Serena. First, I feel mad because it is not supposed to be this way. Next, I transition to sorrow, often rooted in self-pity. Then come the waves of guilt as I realize my thoughts are all about me. The guilt then turns to anger at myself. The anger then gives way to self-doubt and condemnation. On the heels of these thoughts, I nervously laugh out loud questioning why anyone would read anything I write or listen to anything I say because my life is a mess! My emotions are a mess! My actions are a mess! My mouth is a mess! My thoughts are a mess! OMG, I am a MESS and I am EXHAUSTED!


How on earth, in the midst of a wintery season of life, are we supposed to remain green and fragrant like the Tannenbaum? How do we remain steadfast and consistent in our faith?

As I became painfully aware that this was the topic I was supposed to share on my blog this week, I put my paper and pen away for a while. As a diversion, I decided to look for a picture of a Christmas tree to include with this post. I prefer to use my own photos, but the thought of scrolling through family Christmas pictures made me feel like I wanted to vomit. I needed to find a picture I had not used previously, so I pulled up my Pixabay app and searched for Christmas trees. As I scrolled through Pixabay, I was drawn to pictures with presents under the tree. Then it hit me! The answer I had been looking for… Gifts!

When I am focused on all I have lost, and what I will never again receive from Randy, my focus is solely on me and that is a problem! As I begin to fill my thoughts with giving to others, it feels as if a switch has been flipped, and the sting of what I have lost begins to dim a little.

The scripture verse, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35), has become a cliché, but there is something almost magical that begins to happen deep inside our hearts when we put this principle into action.

For me, on one hand, it is excruciating to be grieving through the holidays, especially when I focus on myself, but on the other hand, what a blessing it is to have so many opportunities to focus on giving instead.


Maybe giving will be the healing balm that I so desperately need right now. Maybe giving is the key to remaining green and fragrant like the Fir tree, steadfast, even in the wintertime!


To anyone who is struggling to get through the holidays, may we stand together in prayer for strength and gently encourage one another to be mindful of our focus. May we all put into practice the lesson of the Tannenbaum ... "constant faith and hope sublime lend strength and comfort through all time."


Blessing friends!


O Christmas Tree lyrics and history: https://www.german-way.com/history-and-culture/german-language/german-christmas-carols/o-christmas-tree/


Photo: Pixabay, geralt

#ochristmastree #tannenbaum #lessons #holidays #grieving #grief #despair #lonliness #iamamess #itismoreblessedtogivethantoreceive #constantfaith #hopesublime #strength #comfort #kellyneffspeaks #tom #togetherovercomingmountains

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