So far I have been reflecting on how we might go about making room for Jesus at the centre of our lives through Advent, using the everyday spaces and furniture of our lives. But we can also do so through making seasonal-specific changes to our homes, by introducing things into rooms that we will pack away, and bring out again year after year.
On a particular day in Advent, we decorate our Christmas tree. In past years, this has involved bringing a real tree indoors. Out of place – like a baby occupying a manger. This year we bought an artificial tree; but it is nonetheless out of place in the bay window of our living room.
Our Christmas tree decorations tell one story, and write another.
They tell the story of Christmas past: olivewood manger scenes; needlework wise men; china Santa Clauses (St Nicholas, a Christian bishop, who threw three bags of gold coins through the window to redeem three daughters of an impoverished widower from having to go into slavery, and so both acted-out the story of Christmas and gave origin to the tradition of giving gifts); wooden gift boxes; glass angels; trumpets; stars; sheep...
And they tell the story of Christmas future: for each of our children receive a Christmas tree decoration as a special gift from their godparents each year, which will build up into a collection for them when they leave home and have a tree of their own.
One of the things that I have learned from the parents of now-grown-up-children is the significance of building special family traditions around Christmas. These have created space for the story to go on being told and celebrated in their lives, whether they choose to be actively involved in a faith community throughout the year or not; and created a social glue that binds the family together as a relational group even after children have left home.
I don’t especially want you to adopt our traditions, but to create your own, that work for you, and to celebrate them.
When Christmas comes to an end, and the tree is taken out of the living room, the room feels bigger than it was. By adding something into the space, living with it for a while, and then experiencing its removal –
like adding Mary and Joseph and Jesus to a family home, including the animals, that had already filled its guest room, and living with them for several months and possibly up to two years before they left –
we have the opportunity to reflect on what we have but sometimes fail to notice, use to God’s glory, and give thanks for.
Advent: making room for Jesus – on the Christmas tree.