As The Tree Settles

As The Tree Settles: A Reflection on Christmas Trees in Advent

We put the tree up last night. While it was only December 7th, it felt incredibly late to me. I have been stressing about this tree, worrying that we wouldn’t even find the time this season to get one up. We’ve been so busy with new routines and schedules lately.

There’s nothing on the tree yet. For now, it is just a tree standing in a brand new Christmas tree stand (a quick purchase after water poured all over our hardwood floor while trying to water the new tree last night). This is the time to let the branches fall after they’ve spent so long tied up, bundled, and constrained. We had an idea of the shape, but now we get to see it for all its fullness. The branches will settle and we’ll be able to more easily access each one to decorate it into beauty.

I’m amazed this Advent of how many things remind me to stop and slow down. I’m not sure I’m getting the hint. My Advent calendar is full of tea. I’m pretty sure it is against the very nature of tea to let you drink it in a rush. It must steep. Wait. It is too hot. Wait. Smell. Then taste. Savour.

I could have stayed up until midnight last night putting the lights and the garland on the tree to make it ready to be decorated by the family, but despite my energy and adrenaline and desire to make Christmas perfect, I was forced to wait. The tree needed to settle.

I need to settle.

I started a new job a little over a year ago. Dan started a new job a little less than a year after that. (If you can make sense of that, it means he started a new job recently). I still don’t feel like we’ve settled yet. My complaint is always now that we haven’t found the right new routine. We’re still navigating the mess of calendars and schedules and expectations that mostly conflict instead of cohere. We’ll get there. We just need to let things settle into place, rather than insisting we get to the next part of the process right away.

I’m not good at that.

This morning during my quiet time, the moments I take to settle into the day, to water my thirsty soul, I realized I keep reaching and striving for perfection. This isn’t new. I’ve been a perfectionist from the beginning. But today I was convicted. Through my constant climbing towards perfectionism, I’m stretching towards god – but not the God I thought I was reaching out for. I’m trying to make myself perfect instead of finding grace. I’m trying to make myself into the god of my own life instead of recognizing my need for a God. I’m trying to make Christmas instead of finding it.

A Christmas tree may be a pagan symbol adopted by this oddly beautiful secular/Christian/pagan holiday, but it is allowing me to settle into the true meaning of Christmas. It reminds me of the tree that brought on the need for the Baby, and the tree that righted it all. And, it reminds me to stop climbing for a never attainable perfection but to recognize that the perfect One who covers me in grace is close enough to touch.

The Christmas tree allows us to settle into the true meaning of Christmas. It reminds us of the tree that brought on the need for the Baby, and the tree that righted it all.
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