Christmas is a time of year chock full of traditions. It may hold some of the only traditions I follow, actually. I’ve even built my own family tradition of Special Day during the Christmas season – a day spent doing fun things with each of my kids as my gift to them. Special Day and Christmas Eve worship service are my hardcore traditions.
This year, it seems that a new tradition was born. It wasn’t planned. An invitation was made and it was accepted by a community of people dear to me. The invitation was radically simple: will you join me in decorating a really big tree that sits on a busy highway? Let’s add lights that offer hope and joy to passers-by; ornaments to honor loved ones.
And boy, did they accept! The tree that sits on property that belonged to my grandparents, then to my parents, now belongs to me. I had a dream that prompted me to seek owning it. That dream continues to develop – seeds of renewal and growth for a community I love.
I don’t present myself as a sad or grieving person. I do, however, carry a deep and abiding pain related to the death of my firstborn son nearly 5 years ago. Life, for me, splits into two segments: before Josh died and after Josh died.
What I learned in making an offer to use this tree to remember loved ones is that 1) there are many, many people who feel the sting of loss during Christmas in my small hometown, and 2) there’s something very healing in coming together to remember our beloveds who are no longer with us. And a Christmas tree is apparently a GREAT place to bring all these emotions and people together!
As we celebrated Christmas huddled as a group in the dark around our adopted tree, all of us who placed ornaments in honor or memory of a loved one felt a special presence this year. We heard his or her name spoken. We saw their light shine. We sang carols together. We felt sad together and we felt joy together. That is the definition of love and the definition of community.
And, before we parted ways, we agreed to do it again next year. That big but ordinary tree is now a symbol of love, joy, community, and Christmas spirit – <snap!> just like that!