Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Taking Down the Decorations

Ah, yes, this is the week of the Christmas afterglow. The frenetic activity and commercial hype of the Christmas season has wound down. Retailers everywhere are slashing prices, eager to move their overburden of unsold holiday inventory out the front door as they hold their "I would rather sell it cheap than count it" sale. And now the moment has arrived: it's time to take down those decorations that were so carefully hung for all to admire just a few short weeks ago.

What is your tradition this week? Do you leave the decorations up until January 6th and celebrate the Epiphany? Do you have an un-decorating party and get the family together to carefully hand pluck and box the ornaments, de-tinsel the tree, and put all the other Christmas figures and knick-knacks away? And what about the lights? Do you wait until those first warm breezes of spring to take the outdoor lights off the roof, or have you made the executive decision that white lights outside look nice year-round? If you do take them down, do you get a family member or neighbor in on the action, or do you fly solo?

No matter what the tradition or procedure is for taking the decorations down it always fills me with a distinct sense of sorrow. When the decorations go up each year, they herald a new season of joy, family gatherings, gift-giving and all the other good will vibes that make the season bright. Each year the approaching holidays promise new opportunities to reach out to those on our Christmas card list we'd like to be closer to but always seem to lose touch with. Sometimes a Christmas reconnection results from giving somebody that "perfect gift" -- one that's remembered for years to come. Sometimes a mental reconnect is made when family or friends who are visiting take in your carefully preserved Christmas decorations -- decorations they might recognize and remember from years ago when they were displayed on your parents' hutch or dining room table. You've no doubt noticed how some of your prized decorations, like museum artifacts that get more valuable with each passing year, prompt certain reactions from those who have seen them through the decades. Each of these decorations contributes to the joy and pleasure of the Christmas season.

But now, this week, it's all different. The last of the leftovers are being eaten and there's not much left at that. The bevy of gifts that covered the skirt below the tree before Christmas has been reduced to a box or two left to be put away or returned to the store for a different model. The house is empty and quiet (though the voices and images of recently visiting family and friends still press firmly on the memory) and everywhere, right where they were put, still hang the decorations.

So it is always with no small tinge of sadness that I dismantle the intricate displays, box up the ornaments, the lights and the Christmas train and store them away for Christmas 2011. I know when I see these decorations again the world will have changed: I will be a year older. My family, job, finances and future will be something other than what they are right now. These thoughts can fill me with a sense of apprehension or a sense of anticipation. I must confess it is usually both. But then I have to remind myself what the Christmas season is all about. As the decorations are coming down and the Nativity figures are going back into their straw packaging, these trinkets are simply reminders of what God has done for each of us at Christmas: He has given us His Son as the greatest gift of all.

May the year-round Good News of Christmas be yours throughout the New Year!

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