Real or artificial, big or small, quirky or traditional, a home, office or shop is not complete at Christmas time unless there is a Christmas tree. Not only do they bring joy, but they bring a festive spirit to the place, with the coloured baubles, beautiful twinkling lights and mysterious presents placed underneath waiting to be opened. The magic of Christmas blooms everywhere. This year our tall, beautiful (albeit artificial) tree is decorated with silver, green, white and wooden baubles and strands of twinkling lights. It stands pride of place in our front window for all to see.

It got me thinking about what happens to this beautiful tree when the Christmas season is over. If it’s an artificial tree like ours, it is packed away in storage in the garage until next December. If you have a real tree it is probably going to be dumped in a garbage bin to be taken away. (Hopefully to be recycled!) A once prized possession in the homes and offices of many, is now a forgotten or discarded, unwanted piece of waste, no longer loved or cherished.

So too are people prized possessions to God…not once during the Christmas season and then forgotten, but for all time. I pray that the generous, gracious, joyful spirit we desire at Christmas time will last long after the Christmas tree is dismantled, and that people who cross our paths won’t be discarded for another year, but will be loved and cherished.

The following poem conveys what Christians need to do when the Christmas season comes to an end. It captures the real meaning of Christmas and actually reminds us of what our mandate should be throughout the year. It echoes Jesus’ words described in Luke 4:18-19.

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and the princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among brothers,

To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman. Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights