written by chris cannida, 2015
According to a popular personality assessment, I possess a trait that causes me to nearly insist everything has meaning. Whether buying décor for my home, giving a gift, or writing a poem – without meaning as valued by me, what’s the point? Annoys me sometimes. Other times, it enriches my thought life and keeps me grounded. Years ago, I decided to use it for keeping my Christmas season meaningful, so I began mindfully decorating my tree. I wanted to remind myself of the story of sacrifice and gifting God presented by allowing his Spirit to be born in the form of a Son on earth – a way to offer atonement for our sinful nature. Each year, as I unwrap the ornaments one by one, I keep my mind focused on how grand the love must be for a father to give his only child to undeserving others as a gesture of that love. I can only aspire to give so graciously. My own son tucked in the cleft of my maternal instinct, offering forgiveness and generosity is my next hope to model God’s perfection. I’ll never reach that level, so humbly I accept forgiveness for my failings and I take the opportunity to honor the gift of Christmas as I don my tree with remembrance.
Welcome to my mindfulness tree –
~ The red apples are hung first as I try to be courageous in addressing my own sinful nature over the years. Recalling the many times I accepted the apples of fear and shame in my own garden, I am thankful for God’s mercy.
~ Next come the red bows symbolizing the gift of that mercy, handed to me graciously, and at risk as God knew I might reject it on many occasion with my faithlessness and doubt. He gave it anyway.
~ The gold and red bulbs are hung, sometimes with me bearing shame all over again knowing the offerings in frankincense and myrrh that is my life’s work and purpose are humble, not nearly enough in return.
~ Tiny jingle bells come next, representing the commission to tell the news in word and action of how God loves us without condition, perhaps aching for us to know. If only we took the opportunity to remind each other throughout the year – “You do matter”.
~ Next, there are ornaments in the shape of musical instruments. These are most precious as I’ve collected them over the years, much as I’ve collected the gift of songs in my heart. When I was 12 years old, sitting on the picnic table in my family’s backyard, I believe God spoke especially to me when He said, “And I want you to sing. I’m giving you the music as a special gift. A way for you to talk with me anytime you need”.There were years where others tried to silence the music altogether, though just as I’ve been able to protect the ornaments shaped like harps and horns, God helped me protect the gifts He gave me. Funny thing is, most of the years, this singer is silent as she dons the tree. Sometimes the most powerful moment is the breath between notes as the singer listens for the timing and tone God intends for her life.
~ Lastly come the ornaments collected over the years, each personalized with my own son’s name. God saw fit to give His son, then gave me a son. I believe God has asked little in return. And every single day of the year, I marvel at this most precious gifting, my child. You see, I lost two birth children, one late in term and one a bit earlier. I grieved a mother’s grief, though God saw fit to allow that despair for only a brief time before He graced me with something more precious than even the music. My son is the joy of my days. How could I not celebrate that as the best Christmas gift of all?
~ The star? It goes without saying, doesn’t it?
Humanity has a way of stripping meaning if we let it, perhaps inadvertent. Though we must be mindful and purposeful in protecting the meaning of this seasonal celebration. So, it is my intent as I decorate my home for the birthday celebration. Christmas may be when we wrap the present with our manmade ceremonies in traditional red and green. Easter is when we celebrate the death and rising, to usher in the unfolding of the gift.
Whether during the Christmas season, or any other time of year, I wish for you grounding in meaningful and mindful living.
Merry Christmas ~