My cancer support groups meets this morning in my home. Twice a month, 15 to more than 20 of us gather together to share our lives. We laugh, we sometimes cry a little and we talk. We talk about things that are important, things that are deep, things that are hard, and things that are holy.
As I came down the stairs this morning at 5:30 am to pray and to prepare the house for company, I realized I needed to take down our Christmas tree. Oh, the other decorations had been packed up days ago but I was waiting for the 12 Days of Christmas to end before the final act of dismantling Christmas: taking down the tree. But the 12 Days of Christmas ended yesterday and so it was time.
So at 5:40 am with cup of coffee close by, I began the annual task of taking down the Christmas tree – all the while praying and asking God to let this quiet time be touched by His presence. While my hands were busy, my heart and mind were set on Christ.
First came all crosses that I’d hung on the tree in mid-December. As I plucked them from the tree and placed them a table nearby, I began to see the crosses I’d carried in 2015. The points of pain, disappointment, loss, even death. What crosses did you carry this past year?
Then came the angel ornaments. And I remembered all the times in 2015 that God has seemingly sent one of those celestial beings to my side to aid and assist me. His provision flooded my thoughts. How has He provided for you? What angels did He send you?
The stars were next. While I searched the tree to find each one, I searched my memory for the star moments of this past year. The moments which were the best, the brightest – the shiny moments that brought light even into the darkest days. What were your star moments in 2015?
There weren’t many ornaments of the Holy Family, but there were a few. As I gathered them up, I remembered that the Christ Child, like me, was born into a family of God’s choosing. My times with my family weren’t many this past year because they live far away, but the moments I did have with them were important. When you consider family in 2015, what do you remember?
I had to gather up the big apple ornaments next. They are whimsical additions to my tree – much to big and what do apples have to do with Christmas? But they are some of those treasured ornaments that find their way onto the tree each year. And through them, the Lord asked me to reflect on the fruit of my life in 2015. What is the fruit of your life from 2015?
Then came the Swarovski crystal ornaments Philip’s brother and sister-in-law sent each year from Illinois until they both died just a month apart in 2009. Of all the ornaments on my tree, these are the most precious to me. They are not just the most valuable; they are the most precious. They reminded me today of the most valuable and precious moments of 2015 – the moments of greatest blessing. What are yours?
As the Christmas tree got more bare, I plucked off the filler stuff. You know, the unspecific ornaments that are put on the tree to fill the space. As those came off the tree, I thought about all the unspecific things that filled my time last year. Some good, some not so good. Some meaningful, some not. Maybe next year, I won’t put as many filler ornaments on the tree. I mean, do I really need them? Do you?
The last ornaments I found were two, just two, that said “JOY”. They are gold, sparkly and the word is written in celebratory font. I wondered why there were just two. Why I had not gotten more JOY ornaments to put on my tree? As I regarded 2015, I asked the Lord if I had more joy moments than that. He said “yes”, and as I looked back, I can only agree. This next December when I decorate the tree again, I’m looking for more JOY ornaments. How about you?
The space in my living room where the Christmas tree stood is now empty, vacuumed and ready to be reset for today’s company. My ornaments of crosses, stars, angels, Holy Family, apples, crystal, filler stuff and JOY are set in little groups on my dining room table, waiting to be carefully and lovingly stored away for 2016’s Christmas tree.
Taking down the Christmas tree has never been more meaningful, more prayerful, more blessed. By-by, Tree. By-by, Ornaments. By-by, 2015.
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.