Today is January 7th and the Christmas tree just came down last night.
For those who live and move in the liturgical world, this might not seem strange. But for me, in my conservative, evangelical world, it is not average. Generally, my Christmas tree comes down before New Year’s. There are many reasons for this. One is that we put up a live Christmas tree the week of Thanksgiving. Generally, by the day after Christmas it is a fire hazard! Also, five weeks of needles dropping and remembering (often forgetting) to water encourage an early tree exit. There is usually this feeling that Christmas is now done and it is time to concentrate on a new year and fresh beginnings. In the evangelical world, Christmas day ends the Christmas season. So, taking the tree down feels natural the day after Christmas.
This year was different.
I just wasn’t ready to let Christmas go. I still craved the beauty of a tree-lit living room. I still needed the ornaments that hold our family story. I still wanted to savor the contentment of the last week of December. I didn’t want to leave Christmas.
Driving home from my first day back at work yesterday, I was aware of this need to hold on to Christmas. So, I made a point to sit in the quiet car and consider this desire. One of the hazards of being a spiritual director is that sometimes your counsel to others comes back to haunt you. I heard myself asking, “Have you prayed about this?”
No, I hadn’t prayed about it because it seemed silly to pray about. Why would God want to hear about my inability to take down a Christmas tree? Its trivial. Swallowing my feelings of stupidity, I muttered a little prayer in my car. “God, I can’t seem to let go of Christmas this year. I don’t know why. Have you ever felt that way?”
The story of Jesus as a child in Jerusalem, talking with the priests after Passover popped into my head. Jesus didn’t want to let go of Passover that year. He wanted to stay and keep living the story with those who knew it best. His parents and family had moved on already, walking toward home. But Jesus stayed. I have always assumed that Jesus felt a connection there in the temple with God and wanted to linger with it. Yesterday, I wondered if Jesus longed to hold on to the renewed commitment of Israel in that time of year. Perhaps the smell of sacrifices, and the sight of the blood was soothing to him as it reminded him of the love he had shown to Israel as they were spared in Egypt. Maybe Jesus, as he became more and more aware of his divinity, needed to be in that place where Judaism was centered to drink in who he was. Maybe he needed to hold on for just a little bit longer.