I don’t know when Mum started the tradition, but for as long as I can remember our Christmas tree stayed up for my sister and my early January birthdays. And as far as I’m concerned, there is no good reason to take the tree down sooner. No reason at all. Absolutely none. Hear me. I need the tree to stay up until my birthday. I need to keep reliving my beautiful past.
Celebrating family traditions is a soothing, healing, honoring practice for me. These are the delicate golden threads that connect me to my family, my childhood, my roots. They help me remember who I am. They remind me of memories I don’t want to lose. As I live out my life on the other side of the world, there is very little here that reminds me of my origins. But Christmas does. The sights, scents, and songs trigger memories of Christmas in Australia with my family. The traditions of Christmas make me feel like my family isn’t so far away. Christmas soothes the pain of our distance. So, the longer Christmas lasts, the better. Christmas feels like home.
A week ago, I faced a heart-wrenching decision. This year we had to choose: keep the tree up for my heart’s sake, or take it down in order to fit more people in our home.
We love to host gatherings. As I’ve shared before, it’s not because we have a great venue. We don’t. And it’s not because we throw lavish spreads. We can’t. And it’s definitely not because we are vivacious wonderful gifted party hosts. We aren’t. We live in an okay apartment, have a tight budget, and aren’t particularly social. But we host gatherings anyway. We plan parties because we are passionately committed to living in community. To sharing life. To doing whatever we can to be intertwined with others. God designed humans to love and be loved. And that’s why we plan parties for any and every reason we can. It’s what life is all about.
And so, on New Years Eve, I took my beloved Christmas tree down. To make room for people. Literally. To make room for more people to attend our New Years Eve gathering. And emotionally. To make room for more people in my heart and life. As I packed away the ornaments and lights, I was surprised that my heart felt full of joy. Making room for loving people today is a good and right thing. Giving up my tree wasn’t the painful sacrifice I had expected it to be.
My birthday is now just two days away. The tree has been down for a week and in its place is a chair. A chair that, in the past week, has been a host of party guests, a relaxing place for my mother-in-law, a cozy spot for our kids, and a peaceful refuge for me to snuggle with our baby. Turns out, that people-holding chair has filled my life with just as much joy as my beloved Christmas tree.
Traditions are beautiful. Memories are precious. But loving people today is more important than everything else.
As we head into this new year, I’m looking for chances to make room. I’m hoping I’ll be courageous to accept both the easy and the difficult opportunities to make room. To make literal and emotional room for people, for opportunities, for the new things God is trying to give me. To make room for community and Love. To make room for Him and His plans.
Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers. (Philemon 1:7 MSG)
Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! (Hebrews 13:1 MSG)
Be inventive in hospitality. (Rom 12:13b MSG)
Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you… That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and He’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! (1 Peter 4:9 MSG)