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The Rev. Susan Sparks The Rev. Susan Sparks
The Rev. Susan Sparks is a former trial lawyer who now serves as senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York, NY.

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American Baptist Churches USA

Representative of:

Madison Avenue Baptist Church, New York, NY


Taking Down the Tree

December 29, 2010

 

There is one ritual I really hate during the holidays: taking down the tree. It's a sad job, as it marks the end of the season. It's also messy. Dragging out a month-old, dried-up balsam means sticky needles everywhere. Most of all it leaves the house with this big empty hole in the corner of the living room. What was there before the tree? I can't even remember.

But I took it down. And here I sit, feeling sad, staring at a bare spot in the living room and a house strewn with needles.

I really need to get over this annual trauma. January is supposedly the month of moving on, cleaning out, and lightening up, right?  Perhaps if I thought of taking down the tree as a New Year's resolution exercise, it would be easier.

New Years invites us to think of things like my tree; things like the old, dried up parts of our lives that need clearing out. Maybe it is an old grudge that we need to release or a lingering sense of self doubt or even a dream that has died.  Whatever it is, like taking down the tree, letting go can bring a renewed sense of possibility and freedom.

For example, the hole in the corner of my living room can now accommodate a floor lamp to light the room, or a plant to bring life and energy to the house.  What things in your life are past their time?  What things are taking up room without bringing light or life?

Of course letting go can also leave a hole we're not sure how to fill. If we let go of anger, for example, then what goes in its place? If we aren't mad, then who are we?  Clearing out is an opportune time to revisit our priorities and sense of purpose.  What blessings and good things do you want to invite into your life ... now that you have room? 

Clearing out an old Christmas tree can also be messy.  When you leave the tree up too long, needles begin to fall everywhere.  Worse they end up in strange places we didn't expect -- like the needles I found in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator last May.  So too when we let a painful or difficult issue sit too long, the "needles" or fallout from that issue can find their way into strange places, like anger or tears at unexpected times.  Best to deal with the issue now.

Hard as it was, I'm glad I took down my tree. Sure I have a lot of needles to sweep and furniture to rearrange. But if I didn't take down the old dried-up tree, then where would I find room for the new tree - and the new joy - next Christmas?   


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