When we moved to our current home a little over 12 years ago, my wife and I decided that we make it a tradition moving forward to have a freshly cut Christmas tree in our home during Advent and Christmas. For some reason the tree that I cut this past Christmas was the tallest we have had so far - a little over 9 feet. The height of the tree is not the priority for us, but we always are drawn to the best shaped tree we can find at the Christmas tree farm. This time around when we found the best shaped tree that suited our purpose, it just happened to be much taller.
Our son usually comes with us to help. But this time he was not able to do so because of a schedule conflict. So I had to do the cutting myself with some help from my wife. Needless to say, it was quite a challenge for me. It was heavy, but I managed to cut it and get it on the cart and pulled it to the store where the workers helped to tie it on top of our vehicle. Getting it off the car when we got home, taking it inside the house, and mounting it on the stand was another challenge. But we did it, and it was beautiful where it stood.
It was not until January 9 of this year, after Epiphany, that I had the chance to take out our Christmas tree to the curb to be picked up for recycling. I watered and fertilized it regularly so, as you can see in the photo, it retained its shape and fresh look the entire season. But I noticed something rather remarkable when I had to finally pick it up to take it out of the house - the tree was so light, that I could literally lift it up over my head! It was clear that, while it retained its "fresh" appearance, the tree had lost much of its weight - its sap and fluids that gave it turgidity.
A new metaphor for the new year suddenly came to me: not only did the calendar change, not only did Epiphany liturgically book-ended Advent and Christmas, but the weight of all the cares and the burdens of the previous year now belong to that moment in time. In the new year the receptacle of my experience has been lightened, emptied and ready to receive the new joys, the cares, and even the burdens of the new year. May we look at this new year with great anticipation of the new encounters that will fill our cups with child-like wonder and gratitude to God who is the Lord of the Journey, and to Christ who is the Word become flesh.