by Joyce Peasgood

A year ago, a gift arrived at our doorstep that shifted my view of Christmas trees. As the back story, we had not had a Christmas tree in our home for many years. A major move, a smaller living space, not always being at home for Christmas and the challenge of purchasing a tree in season were contributing factors.

To be clear, I love Christmas, I love the lights, and the festivities. Though a tree did not adorn our living room, I do own a lovely Christmas village, and set it up almost every year. That proved to be adequate to replace the actual Christmas tree.

Until last Christmas! After many years without a Christmas tree, I told my husband that I wanted to have an artificial tree. I missed it. I put out a few feelers, such as, if anyone was upgrading their Christmas tree, and wanting to find a home for their old one, let us know.

And then, it came! A gift. Rory, a Labradoodle, who visits us one day a week, heard of my dilemma, and lo and behold, she dropped off a box at our front door step. It contained a tree. How she did it is another story.
My first observation was that it was a smaller box. Normally, they are packaged in slightly larger boxes.
A few hours later, in mid-afternoon, I pulled the tree out of its box – it was a pencil pine tree. It had a base, plus three sections which included lights. It was thin tree, about 18 in at its widest at the base. Not to worry, what it lacked in width, it made up in height – 6 ft tall.

After setting it up, and plugging in the lights, I took a long look at it. I was not sure I liked it. It looked odd. It didn’t look like Christmas trees I was accustomed to. However, it fit perfectly into our living room.

I left the tree lit up for the remainder of the day and took note of it as I went about my chores. Later that evening, after a little time gazing at the tree, I said to my husband, “I think that tree is starting to grow on me.”

A few days later, my husband brought in our Christmas ornament bin, and the process of making the tree come to life began. Decorations that had not seen the light of day for many years began to make their way on to the tree. We reminisced about memories from Christmas’s past evoked by particular ornaments.

Moving on to Advent 2022 – in a couple of weeks, the pencil pine tree will come off the shelf in the garage, and will adorn our living room once again.

Like the majority of you folk, I have experienced many Christmas moments, enjoying fun times over the years with our children, and now our grandchildren.

Nonetheless, the challenges in our current world situation, and the ongoing persistence of Covid guide us to prayerfully move into this Advent moment with new perspectives. With hope, yes! With anticipation, for sure!
The advantage of living into middle age and elder years, is that we have witnessed the goodness of God and the presence of the inner Spirit of Love within ourselves and others. Has our journey been fraught with difficulties? Yes indeed. Have we been attentive to the places and moments where the inner presence of God has sustained us? I hope so.

It would seem to me that the spiritual discipline of prayer for Advent 2022 is an invitation to remember and reflect. As God has been with us in the past, so the Lord is with us into this moment.

In Advent seasons past, we read prophetic texts such as “a child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace,” Is. 9:6. CEB
In Is. 7:14, we noted “the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel!” CEB. Immanuel translates to God with us.

“As for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, though you are the least significant of Judah’s forces, one who is to be a ruler in Israel on my behalf will come out from you,” prophecies Micah, (Micah 5:2), CEB

Along with remembering, we reflect. How does the birth of the Jesus bring light into the darkness of our concerns at this time? The pencil pine tree is not the same as Christmas trees from my past, and yet, it is a part of our Christmas experience in this moment.

The message of hope and peace that emanates from the coming of the Christ Child into our world has not changed. It has shifted.

Our spiritual discipline of prayer for Advent 2022 is to remember, to reflect and be attentive to the presence of light in our midst.