I ‘took down’ Christmas on Thursday. It is always bittersweet to remove my little Christmas city, the many decorations and finally the tree. Even though the season is typically so busy for us as a pastor and a musician we still ‘do it up big’ at home as well. We start adding classic Christmas stations to Pandora on Thanksgiving and (thanks to the thumbs up and thumbs down function) by Epiphany it has been fine tuned into the most swanky Christmas music ever. Sinatra, Torme, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Mr. Como, Bing and Deano croon the classic Christmas songs in our kitchen and car throughout most of our waking hours as my husband and I soak in all of the wonderment of the season.
Very few of the decorations were purchased; most were gifts. There is a little city that I bought piece by piece with the gift cards given to me by the choir from the church where I played. Many were presents from students, principals, and friends and now that my parents have gone to be with the Lord I now possess a popsicle stick stable and ornaments beautifully crafted by the five to seven-year-old me as well as decorations with which I grew up. My favorites are a plastic clump of bananas from the crazy tree we had growing up which consisted of gold tinsel and a bunch of plastic fruit (with a few things we made in school), some little carolers with their mouths wide open ( I swore I could see them singing when I was little) and some goofy blocks with little heads sticking out of them that spell ‘noel’. When I would visit mom and dad sometimes, they would spell out ‘leon’ or ‘lone’. You never knew. It is a conglomeration of decorations, not particularly ‘tasteful’ but fun and meaningful.
When I took down Christmas on Thursday, I packed things up with a realization that almost everything is going to be stored away for five years or longer. I evaluated everything’s value from its sentimental or monetary worth weighing it against its size. Things that were large, cheap and not sentimental were out. Some decisions weren’t so clear as others. My thoughts evolved from ‘do I really want this in five years?’ to ‘oh, I really don’t wish to be without this for five whole years’ to ‘what will my life look like in five years’ to ‘what will I be like in five years’ and then ‘I wonder how long it will really be before I see these things again if ever’. It is all about the future: the unknown, the unpredictable, and yes, the frightening. Moving to a foreign land with different customs, manners and a challenging language is about as unpredictable as it gets.
When I begin to look at my future as a merely as series of dramatic catastrophes I remember Philippians 4:6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
St. Paul doesn’t write ‘in some situations’ or ‘in situations where you have done your best but can’t handle the rest.' He means ‘every situation.' God has taken care of me so far, and he holds my future as well. Nothing in my life has turned out the way I have dramatized it to be and only now can I see God’s hand in my experience which includes several moves, loss of parents, job loss and things that just didn’t turn out as expected.
So ‘Christmas’ is now sorted. Some things are in very sturdy bins, others are in my trunk ready to be delivered to Bethesda Thrift Shop (including the TREE!), and others have been given to special people as gifts. Next year we will celebrate in a small and dedicated close-knit group of Christians in a former communist country. God will be with us.