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Undecorating the Christmas Tree

John 16: 33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  


So here it is. “Take Down the Christmas Tree Day”. It is January 30th. I have one day left before I have passed my own limit of acceptability for a tree to still be up in my house. My grandkids are confused as to why it is still “Christmas” at my house and not at theirs. I dig my heels in like a dog being dragged into the vet’s office for shots. What is wrong with me? Why is it always so hard? Before I begin the dreaded Christmas tree removal, I have to dissect my feelings because I know where this task will take my emotions. At some point in the process the tears will begin to flow, and I will descend into a deep sadness.


Why is this so emotional for me? There’s no simple answer. I know on a surface level that I think the tree is beautiful, and in January I need all the beauty and light I can cling to in order to get through the dark, cold winter in Alaska. The tree serves as a comforting light during a dreary time of year. Its cozy twinkle is pleasant to sit by and it lifts my spirits.


A secondary reason is because the ornaments are a collage of my loved ones, my faith, my childhood, my travels, and my personal creativity. There’s also a deeper reason that has to do with change, loss, and memories of years that have drifted into the past. Many years ago a friend gave me a set of five red, glass ornaments, one for each member of our family (my husband, me, our son, and our two daughters). The girls expanded the collection for us in 2022 and 2023 with the names of their husbands and children. We’ve grown from five to fourteen. I cherish the ornaments because I cherish the people whose names are on them. Yet the reality in my heart is that all is not perfect in our interactions and relationships. I long for more. I long for better communication. I long for togetherness. I long for healing and growth in many areas of our lives. As I put away these most special gifts I wonder if we will all “be here” next Christmas and if things might be better next year.



Putting away the decorations from the Christmas holiday feels a bit like a death. I’m burying the representations of all that is meaningful to me in boxes to lie dormant for most of the year. Words from the song “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” haunt my mind as I hear Sinatra singing the line “Through the years we all will be together…if the fates allow.” ‘The fates’ have not allowed it for us, and many have left our presence. We’ve said goodbye to several loved ones since 2012, and there are no guarantees for the coming year. I dread putting our tree away because I know it ushers in the passing of time before another Christmas season returns, and in between the taking down of this tree and its next resurrection there will be change. Although the change of adding a new family member to the tree is a joy, the thought of one of those name-ornaments hanging there and the person who it represents not being with us is such a hollow feeling.


Facing this internal storm of thoughts and feelings leads me to the most significant reason for having a tree, and the main reason I wish it could remain up all year. The Christmas tree symbolizes the gift of Jesus and the deep, sure hope of His return. He is the light of the world and life eternal. In Him I find the everlasting relationship that cannot be taken away. Although the tree holds great beauty and is laden with memories of loved ones and experiences, as a whole it creates a glow that reflects the hope of my eternal future with Christ. Without Him, my tree is simply a creative 3D scrapbook. It truly denotes so much more than that, and putting it away, in a sense, feels wrong.


So now as grief threatens to rear up as I square off with this task, I am going to face it. Once I close the lid on the last box, I will look forward to Easter where we focus on the celebration of life eternal once again. I will put the tree away as one buries a seed in the ground, knowing the dormant period will soon bring resurrected life and beauty.


I enter the task of today with prayerful resolve to trust the Lord in all these things, knowing He is with me, He understands, and He will comfort. He said we would have sorrows and trials, but that we should take heart in the fact that He has overcome these hard things we go through (He triumphed over suffering and death through the cross and His resurrection, making a way for us to have eternal life with Him). No matter what loss I face, what trial I encounter, what sorrow walks toward me in 2024, I will stand in the knowledge that He has already overcome it for me, and one glorious day there will be no more sorrow or death. The tree will radiate with never-ending light, and love, joy, and peace will decorate it for all eternity.

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Addendum: It is eight hours later, and I have completed the take-down task. Tears fell here and there, but I removed the ornaments while praying for each person who came to mind, had some fun photographing a “family photo” using the ornaments with each family member’s name, and took the approach of finding new ways to bring warmth and light to the house through the use of candles and rearranged décor. Processing my sadness ahead of time and not choosing to listen to Christmas music as I undecorated was helpful. I’m strengthened by God’s goodness to me. He gently comforts my soul as I work through things that I have to let go of and restores my joy even in barren, cold, dark, icy January.  





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