For our family, it starts at Thanksgiving. Fall decorations come out and the cute turkey centerpiece graces the table. Then in a weekend, we exchange fall colors for red and green. The Christmas tree goes up, complete with a lifetime’s collection of handmade ornaments. Evergreen boughs and red berries adorn banister and mantel. Velvet Christmas bells hung on the doorknob welcome guests with a cheery jingle. The olive wood figurines in our nativity scene are gently positioned on the entry table. Glowing angels take their places by the fireplace and atop the tree. Slowly the tree skirt disappears under a growing pile of brightly wrapped packages with colorful bows and carefully printed “To” and “From” messages. Christmas candles scent the air and shimmer in the evenings. The scene is set for Christmas.
Christmas continues with joyful family gatherings. We share delicious homemade food and the stories written in our lives throughout the year. We exchange cookies, cards and precious hand-picked gifts, so painstakingly wrapped. We sing Christmas carols together in church and read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible. Oh what a joyful, beautiful season!
And then we come to January. The scent of Christmas candles still lingers in the air as we box up all the trappings of Christmas. As we took ornaments off the tree this year, I found myself not wanting to put away Christmas. I didn’t want to put away the season which allows people the freedom to focus on Jesus, the Prince of Peace, born as a baby on earth to save us. I didn’t want to put away the lavish generosity that moves us to pay a struggling neighbor’s electric bill or to provide meals and coats for homeless people. I didn’t want to put away the thrill of loved ones we haven’t seen in months walking through the door and into our arms.
So this January, I put away the tree, but not the true treasures of Christmas. I’m keeping out the the freedom to focus on Jesus all year long. I’m keeping out lavish generosity and tender care for others. I’m keeping out the love of family and pledge to express it all year. These things are the essence of Christmas. What remnants of Christmas will you keep out this January? And what are you putting away?