What is bringing you comfort these days?
This photo of my daughter's Christmas tree is a holiday seek and find. There is a harp, a baby crib from her first Christmas, Minnie Mouse holding a heart, and Disney's Rabbit from Pooh skating with a frying pan on each foot. There is a chalkboard with her name written in her first grade penmanship, at least two graceful ballerinas, and a mitten. The tree is filled with memories of her childhood, each ornament representing an interest or talent from the year it was given.
We had a tradition in our house while my kids were growing up. Every year when we decorated the tree the kids were given a new ornament to add to our ever expanding collection. The tradition itself was fun, but my goal was that they would have enough ornaments to have a cheerful, meaningful tree when they set up their own home someday.
Someday has come for the two older kids. When we pack away the decorations this year we will set aside all the ornaments that belong to my son. This time next year they will adorn a tree wherever life takes him after college graduation. The ritual of wrapping each individual ornament as it leaves the family tree to be set aside for the tree that will stand in the home of the next generation always moves me. It gives me one more chance to watch the years go by as I place in tissue hobbies and dreams of the days that brought us to this point and a chance to dream of days yet to come.
My daughter sent me the photo of her tree shortly after having decorated it in her condo so many miles across the country to mark her second Christmas there. My heart soared. I texted back, "Just what I dreamed when I started the ornament tradition years ago." There in her living room stands a tree covered in ornaments that have been present in all her Christmases past. The memories, the love, the times we have shared are with her in North Carolina even though we can't be. That gives me such comfort and fills my heart with joy.
Just days after my kids and I shared this moment of celebration at the sight of this Christmas tree, a very different story was brought to my attention. One of my students at school was looking towards a bleak Christmas. The past year has brought financial hardship and the foreclosure on their home. The bank allowed them to keep very little. There has been illness and struggle in the family. My Sunday school class had agreed to adopt the family for Christmas, but it wasn't until just this week that I realized the family didn't even have a Christmas tree.
I set to work. One friend had just been laughing about how she bought a tree after Christmas two years ago because it was pretty and despite her husband's point that they did not need a tree. It had been in a box in her basement ever since. Another friend lamented having lovely ornaments that worked in her home for a family of four, but were too much for her new place where she lives alone. Noting my own abundance, I walked around the two decked out trees that stand in my house picking fun ornaments from the branches and adding them to the box my friend gave. All these goodies were loaded into my car-turned-Santa's-sleigh and a special delivery was made.
As I sat to type this morning in the glow of lights from my own tree I was thinking I would tell the story of how the tree with its ornaments and all the trappings of Christmas give me comfort and joy, but that isn't really it at all. It is the love, love that is somehow felt deeper, with more urgency at Christmas-time. It is the love that brings me comfort and joy.