I still haven’t taken my tree down. It’s past the middle of January and it is still standing sentinel in
the corner of the living room. I have good reasons. We live in Allen, Texas but are originally from Pennsylvania. We left Christmas for a 5 day trip “back east” to see family and friends. So I couldn’t take it down then. We got home and I had to get ready for an intensive two week course I was co-teaching the first two weeks of January. So I didn’t find time to take it down then. Now it’s mid January and I have several workshops and meetings to prepare for that take me up through the first week of February. So I don’t have time to take it down now.
It’s fake so I can’t leave it at the curb. Besides, that pick up day is long gone. I know what I need to do. I need to spend a couple of hours painstakingly removing the ornaments, one by one, and put them in their respective boxes. I need to unwind the lights and wrap them around the coffee can, take out the fake branches one by one and bind each bundle with duct tape and put them in the fake tree box. Then I need to muscle it out to the garage, vacumn up the fake pine needles, and schlep all the ornament boxes to the attic. I also have to unwind the fake garland from the stairway railing and put away the crèche. Joseph is missing, for some reason, so at least I don’t have to put him away. There is, to my knowledge, no ritual, at least in the United Methodist Book of Worship, to mark this occasion.
It’s depressing to have let something go on too long. A relationship that needs to end. A bad habit. An addiction. Maybe a role we need to stop filling. I’m not sure what it would be for everyone else. I only know what it needs to be for me this year.
Sometimes I go to professional meetings. They usually last 3 or 4 days. You wear a lanyard with your name tag around your neck that has a dot on it indicating whether you’re having beef, fish or chicken at the closing banquet. You walk around the halls of the conference center/hotel cheerily greeting colleagues and earnestly participating in small group discussions, and then it is time to go home. I have quite a collection of lanyards. Maybe I’ll make some yardart with them someday when I retire. But what if I stuck around the hotel after everyone else went home, just walking around, lanyard and all, wondering where everybody else had gone, just walking around until the next meeting in 12 months?
When the meeting is over, you go home and unpack and do your laundry and get back to work. And when the twelve days of Christmas are over, you take down your tree.
I wish I could say that this procrastination is a new problem for me. But it has plagued me for years. December and January are busy months in the teaching profession. I have trouble finding time to put the tree up and even more trouble finding time to take it down.
Sometimes we need someone to tell us it’s time. One year, when I lived in Pennsylvania, a neighbor down the street stopped, parked her car in front of my house, rang the bell, and, when I came to the door, told me it was March and that I needed to take the Christmas wreath down from my front door. I didn’t even know her that well. That’s probably why she took the liberty. Kings and rulers, in the Bible and today, have needed prophets to tell them it is time to put oppressive practices away. We Christians need Epiphany with its message that, with the arrival of Jesus the light of the world, it’s time to put certain things under the bushel, or at least, in the attic, so our light can shine to make the world more joyful and just. If you’ll excuse me, there is something I need to do now.