In the blackest part of the night, on the shortest day of the year, my Christmas tree is up, poking shimmering holes in the darkness, reminding me there is always luminosity in the cold, there is always promise in obscurity. There is always light to be found.
Even when the sun is on the other side of the planet and especially out here in the country, far removed from street lights and city glow, that light can never be extinguished.
And so I find it marvelous that we celebrate Christmas at such a time, when we need the reminder more than ever. Twinkling lights help us to keep it together, to be mindful of the hope we have, even as the world turns into winter’s embrace.
I guess that’s why I hate to take my Christmas tree down. Why I procrastinate, groaning as the days into January make my Christmas decorations socially unacceptable, as the task of dismantling it all becomes more necessary but the nights continue on, well lit. Why I can’t argue with my children’s constant pleas that our Christmas lights remain on, the tree stay upright in all its glorious splendor, gleaming day and night.
Not only is the future on that Christmas tree, but the past is there too-all the special ornaments that remind us of our loved ones, each gently holding memories of out-of-reach places, a loving recollection of moments shared in promise of more to come. Hand-painted ornaments my children made for me, the ones I my grandmother gave me every year, the brass collection, each lovingly engraved with my name and the year it was given me. The styrofoam clown with the blue nose that had been on a gift to my parents when I was born at Christmastime and has managed to outlive the years.
While the lights remind, those ornaments keep perspective. When my family traveled to Joplin, Missouri to help clean up after a horrific tornado in 2011, my husband found a Tweetie Bird ornament in the grass and brought it home to put on our tree. Whenever we see it at Christmas, we are reminded to pray for those who lost everything. We are reminded of all we have.
This year, I don’t know when I'll take my Christmas tree down, but I know I will savor every moment it is up until I do.