3 Reasons Why My Christmas Decorations are Still Up
Happy New Year! After a nice long break, it's time to get back into the swing of things. Letting go of the 2017 Advent and Christmas season has been difficult, as usual, for me. I love the holidays, and I especially love the Christmas Season: the time from Christmas Eve until Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord; the time when the Church goes back to Ordinary Time. I'll confess...my Christmas decorations are still up. We are always among the hold-outs in the neighborhood, keeping our outdoor lights glowing and decorations up until the very last day. But inside, it's usually a different story, and it usually happens at a little more of a slow-motion pace. I could try to justify this resistance by saying I'm too busy to take ornaments off of three (yep, three!) trees or switch out the Christmas dishes. But, let's face it. It's just not as fun to put all that stuff away as it was to take it out. Even so, I ask myself why that is and know there must be a reason (besides slothfulness and the desire to take a long winter's nap after a season of over-doing it on the sugar...well, that could be part of it.) No, no. It was 70 degrees and sunny in K-town this week and Katie and I went for a 3 mile hike. (In January!) I'm not lazy and I'm not needing to hibernate. It must be something else.
In pondering this question, I think of a few different factors:
1. Unmet Expectations
Try as I might, I never seem to quite "capture" the Christmas peace I seek each year. I even had a strategy to identify our "Sugar Plum List" and prioritize the things that make Christmas "Christmas" for us. All in all, the most important things made it from the list to our experience. One thing I long for each year is time alone to reflect, pray, and BE STILL. Our "Charlie Brown" tree is of the hand-me-down artificial variety: scrawny and sad until it is transformed into something beautiful and comforting. Pastel vintage glass balls. Precious Moments ornaments from the four babies who grew up around this tree and from the one we didn't get to meet. Our "First Christmas Together" ornament which made its 30th appearance this year. Victorian-style paper garland, cut into separate sections, because it doesn't make it all the way around the tree. It really is a bit of a mess. But once the white twinkle lights are reflecting from the ornaments, the whole thing has an old-fashioned glow. It certainly wouldn't win any awards but to me, it's beautiful. This year, I did spend time in front of that tree, but not how I pictured. I paid bills. I frantically prepared the Christmas cards I swore would get out on time, but didn't. We watched all the Christmas movies. It wasn't the same. Not complaining, just recognizing that I chose to do other things and let this one slip by me. So this week, AFTER “Christmas” was officially over <gasp!> I got my chai tea, my Pandora Instrumental Christmas station, and my knitting and I let myself enjoy one last day of Christmas.
2. Resisting Ordinary Time
With "Christmas" starting earlier and earlier each year, it is so easy to want to be DONE with it right after Christmas Day. I hear people say things like, "I can't wait to get my tree down" or "If I don't get my tree down by New Year's Day, it will drive me crazy" and it makes me a little sad. No judging. Yes, it would be a lot more practical to take the decorations down during the days off of work between Christmas and New Year's Day. And who doesn't want to start the new year off right with a clean house, free from the clutter of decorations which, in some cases, has been up since Halloween? For me, going back to Ordinary Time is a little bit of a let-down. As I face the long days of winter (I know you feel sorry for me and my not-so-cold January days in Knoxville!) and the long list of resolutions I need to make-good-on or let-go-of, it's a time a self-reflection which is not always comfortable for me. Ordinary Time in the church looks so barren coming on the heels of the Christmas season, but "ordinary" doesn't mean bland or boring. It comes from the word "ordinal" which is simply a method of numbering. To find out more about why the church calls it “Ordinary Time”, click here. You’ll see that it’s not so ordinary after all.
3. Speaking of New Year’s Resolutions
As I said, with the end of the Christmas season comes a new year. This is true for the Day-Timer refill I just ordered (a little late) and for my i Calendar. Not quite true for the liturgical calendar: the new year for the church actually started on December 3rd, the first Sunday of Advent. I fear I may have been too busy with the preparations of the holiday than the preparations of the heart, and didn’t make the effort at the spiritual resolutions for the year with the same fervor as my typical food/exercise resolutions of January 1. Letting go of Christmas means letting go of the delusion that this year I will be perfect.
And there it is. The reason my Christmas decorations are still up on January 15. I am not perfect. This side of heaven, I will never be perfect, but the desire in me to be better than I was last year and not as good as I will be next year brings me to a decision point. Will I keep messing around, or will I get serious about my relationship with the Lord and my willingness to use the gifts He has given? Once the trees are down and the music is silenced, will I be brave enough to go into the quiet of my heart to find Him waiting for me, loving me, and be willing to love him back by doing what He asks?
John 14:21 Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.
A new year seems like a good time to find out.