Advent

Lit, Not Decorated

 We got our tree early this year, ridiculously early.

In my family growing up, the tree came late. When I was very small, my mother put it up on Christmas Eve. In later years we traveled from the Washington, D.C. suburbs to our real home in Portsmouth, Virginia, the minute school was out for vacation, and the tree was the top of our priority list. I remember waiting for my brother to come home from boarding school and doing the tree with him when I was in college.

If anyone was getting ready for Christmas, it must have been my mother, and I have to admit that in our house, it falls to me, as well. I have control over what we do and when we do it. When I became a practitioner of Advent, I loved the way it stretched out the month of December. We lit a wreath at the dinner table. We had special meals on Sundays.

Then I became a pastor, and suddenly it became more of a negotiation with my church calendar.

This year, the family calendar gave us two choices for getting a tree: November 28 or December 21. Light Princess and I are not the right pair to wrangle a tree, and the rest of the family won't be home again until the weekend before Christmas. The weather this weekend was wet and warmish and not very Christmas-y. But when the wind blew all day Saturday and dried off the trees at the lot a few blocks from here, we walked over and chose a tree. Pure Luck and Snowman carried it home and got it into the tree stand, then Snowman and Light Princess strung the lights.

Christmas 2009 006So the tree is lit. And that's what I wanted. I wanted that good-smelling symbol in my house, with lights, because whether it snows or blows or gets colder or remains damp and 40 degrees as it is today, it's going to get very dark before the light returns.

The tree with its lights, then, is a hedge against the darkness.

The LED lights are colored, and they sit like embers among the branches. Early in the morning, when we rise for school and work and the sun is not even close to joining us, we plug in the tree. We know this time will pass. By the shortest day, if all goes well, the rest of the family will return, and there will be too many people waiting for one shower and gallons of milk will be consumed overnight.

Sometime in the intervening weeks, we will decorate the tree, set up the manger scene, even hang the stockings. But for now, we are lit, not decorated.

9 thoughts on “Lit, Not Decorated”

  1. You’re a beautiful writer, and there’s a longer story in all of this.
    We plug in the tree in the morning too. Just a little more light to get us through the day. And because our daughter loves it.

  2. I like to have the tree up without lights for a day or so…then the lights…then ornaments. Your tree is beautiful and so was the writing.

  3. Just bought this year’s string of L.E.D.s… I’ve been buying a strand each year since they became available. Last year I finally found some that promised “bright, warm light” on the package, mixed them in with the older L.E.D.s on the tree, and…ended up with a tree that looked half alive and half undead. The older L.E.D.s emitted a cold blue light that reminded one more of Hallowe’en Zombies than any Christmas Herald.
    We’re not ready for a tree yet in our household. Maybe in a weekend or two. But when we do bring one in, we’re looking forward to an energy-efficient season of “bright, warm light.”

  4. Our tree is up too…lit but not decorated….and sadly not real at all, not in the desert where the trees dry up immediately in the 7% humidity…
    I have had such a hunger this year to go to the tree farms we use to visit in Wisconsin and cut down our own…fresh and fragrant….perhaps next year?
    In the meantime…

  5. I like that your tree is lit but not decorated. I like the advent-y feel to doing one thing at a time, one day at a time that I got while reading your post, even when it comes to decorating the tree. The light shining all by itself is beautiful.

  6. oh i am decorated… i find the time to do it, and it happens. in part because the lights cheer me in the evenings, when all is quiet save for the turning of pages in a book, and the dog snoring softly from the sofa. it calms me inwardly… because as parish things go… winds come eventually. ’tis good to be anchored in the light which the darkness cannot overcome…

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