I hope this finds all my readers healthy, happy, and ready to grapple with the New Year. Taking a cue from my dear sister, I thought an image of the Holy Family was the perfect way to express the promise and the love that I hope will be your lot in 2009.
Here at the Fleming House, the holidays are officially over; the company has returned to their home(s), the children to their school-time abodes, at least for awhile; and the (artificial) Christmas tree is de-decorated, dismantled, re-boxed, and returned to its customary place in the garage, to bide its time until the next holiday season. There are a few Yuletide wall decorations and knick-knacks still to be put back in boxes and returned to the attic with the tree decorations, but that will get done over the next week, probably.
Yesterday afternoon I hauled the tree box into the garage and clumsily manhandled it into its storage spot behind the bicycle, lawn mower, barbecue grill, garden tools, and other items awaiting resurrection with the coming of Spring. I paused to catch my breath, and my mind turned to the hitherto unappreciated significance of this little event. It seemed rather sad that the tree plays its special part in our lives for only about three weeks, and spends the rest of the year all mashed up into that box, standing forlornly and unnoticed in its corner of a dusty, cluttered garage through the rest of the frigid winter, the warming spring, the hot summer, the bracing fall, and the advent of winter again. I reflected on the few big and many small things that had transpired in our lives since the tree's last brief sojourn in the house, and then thought about what might happen in the coming months and seasons before anyone thought about fetching it in again. Would I even be here? Would we all still be around? Might some calamity or great sadness put all thought of cheerful celebration out of our minds? Or, would the next holiday season be the climax of a year blessed with some special joy, so great that we might want to get the tree out and put it up early? Then, perhaps, the coming year will be like most others we've enjoyed on this earth, with its share of hurts and disappointments but also times of happiness and thanksgiving, and a lot of mundane but precious moments in between. All we can do, I concluded, is to pray that God will give us the faith and wisdom to endure whatever challenges may be in store for us, and to remember and thank Him for the multitude of blessings, great and small, that will surely be ours.
I suppose it's a little crazy that an artificial Christmas tree stuffed into an old cardboard box can inspire such profound reflections--it doesn't take much to prompt in a 50+ year-old thoughts about life and mortality--but I'm grateful for it. I want to wring out of this life every insight and every ounce of understanding that I can, while I have the opportunity. And I pray that everyone I love feels as blessed as I do this moment. May that feeling last all year!