by Joanie Butman
I find the first week of January anticlimactic and a bit melancholy. In our family the Christmas season doesn’t officially end until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, which commemorates the arrival of the Wise Men. Even so, come January 1st, there’s no denying the festivities are over. Everyone is returning to their respective lives, and the onerous job of ‘undoing’ Christmas looms. As I took the Christmas trees down, I was faced with an unpleasant truth – my own epiphany of sorts. Let me explain.
I have an artificial tree, my Faith Tree, adorned with bows and fragile, elegant angels, bibles and other assorted Christian symbols. It’s lovely. It stands in our sun room, safely out of the fray, and is where I spend my quiet time each morning. Even though it’s fake, it’s a little misshapen because at the end of each season, I simply wrap a bag around it and stuff it down the cellar stairs, which is equivalent to the Grinch stuffing the Who’s tree up the chimney – ornaments and all. It takes a little primping every year to reshape it and is definitely a little worse for wear.
In the kitchen, amidst all the activity, stands our ‘real’ tree festooned with ornaments that represent our lives: the precious, perfectly imperfect, homemade ones from our children, decorations from places we’ve been, activities we enjoy and milestone markers of all sorts. It is a pictorial of some of the happiest (and even some of the unhappiest) moments in our family.
So what’s my epiphany? Sadly, that the only thing missing on the ‘real’ tree is what should be laced throughout – the faith ornaments I’d compartmentalized into their own tree – precious in its own right but even more so when integrated into our ‘real’ one.
It made me think of how I handle my faith. Do I segregate it and take it out on Sundays, cleaned up and pristine, or is it woven into the fabric of my being, ever present in my ‘real’ life – a little beaten up and evolving from constant use, which somehow adds to its beauty? A little of both I have to reluctantly admit.
Furthermore, this year the lights of the artificial tree went out so I knew it was time to discard it. It was another important reminder that when our faith isn’t exercised or nurtured, its light burns out as well. It needs to be assimilated into every moment of every day so its light can grow stronger, brightening even the darkest of them.
The Magi chose to return home a ‘different’ way after experiencing their first Christmas, forever changed by their journey and discovery. I, too, choose to start this year a ‘different' way, letting the miracle of Christmas and my faith in Christ infuse light, peace, love and joy into each moment and every aspect of my life. I don’t want to ‘undo’ Christmas. I want to redo it every day!
"Thank you, Father, for the gift of faith! Draw me close to you so that my faith makes itself known in every choice I make and every word I speak. I don't want just to sound like a believer; I want to be one!"