Trimming the tree
Everyone has their favorite Christmas traditions. Some people love baking cookies. Others enjoy decorating. Or sending & receiving cards from friends both near & far. For you, it might be singing festive music or finding just the right gift for someone you love. Even old Mr. Scrooge had his own cherished holiday ritual—barking “Bah humbug” at anyone who would listen.
For me, among the very best parts of Christmas is the decorating of the tree. Every year, I can hardly wait to pull the large boxes out of storage and start hanging ornaments, one by one.
I don’t know what all adorns the tree at your house, but on mine nearly every ornament tells a story. Each one has some connection to the past or reminds me of some person, place, or experience of significance. Trimming the tree becomes a ritual of jogging my memory, reminiscing, and expressing gratitude for countless wonderful people in my life.
There’s the small clay bell I made as a gift for my parents in kindergarten. Or the keepsake purchased on a fun vacation with a friend. Or the homemade ornaments hand sewn by my grandmother. It’s been close to two decades since her last Christmas here on earth. And though her ornaments are more than a little outdated, their presence on the tree makes the space between heaven and earth feel a bit thinner, even for just a few weeks.
The tree quickly fills up with trinkets that act as tributes, reminding me of a life filled with people I love and who have loved me. Not unlike how the New Testament book of Hebrews describes our being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. These people of both our past & present who have formed us into the people we are today. The ones who fill us with love, encouragement, or joy in all sorts of ways.
You don’t really even need a decorated tree to take time to acknowledge gratitude for the people who so deeply enrich our lives. In the midst of a season that can quickly distract us with gifts to buy, packages to mail, or cookies to bake, there seems no better time to pause, look around, and give thanks.
Whether through the ornaments on your tree or simply the memories you hold in your heart, there’s no shortage of reminders that we’re far from alone. In these days of Advent, take note of the whole host of witnesses to God’s goodness that surround you. So that not only during the Christmas season, but all year long, we’ll remember the people of great faith and deep love who are all around us.