My husband sat on the sofa, enthusiastically directing my selection and hanging of ornaments. I was trying to not get defensive. Why this year, after years of selecting and hanging Christmas ornaments with my children, independent of supervision? Maybe because children are now grown-ups and he felt compassion on me alone in my work.  Sweet. Or was I less capable this year? Maybe, since it had taken four days to get the boxes open and start the process. Was I too slow? Maybe, but then he “got it” and at one point laughed, forgiving my loitering and said, “You could tell our entire life story with every ornament.” Maybe so.

I like our ornaments. I will hang as many as I can on the tree and our conversation continued like this:

“Oh, Mike, remember this snowy glass ball from the little shop in Lucerne?”

“Umm, Don’t think so.”

“And what about this star? Do you remember who gave us this star?”

“I have no idea. Who?”

“Megan’s professor at Vanderbilt. Remember?”

“No, but hey, what I really like are these pine cones. Why not just do the tree in pine cones and leave off all the glass stuff? You have way too much stuff on there.”

“No, the “glass stuff” brings the tree to life. Chesley, Blair and I went crazy one year glittering those and you and I gathered them on the golf course through the fall. Remember? ”

And on it goes. Little by little the tree comes to life, holding a  small part of our lives on every branch. It becomes like an old friend I haven’t seen in a while. One by one, as I pull them out of tissue I say hello and welcome them out for this Advent season. There are some that can hang anywhere, but there are others that have a special spot. A special photograph hanging front and center, an angel high at the top, and the ever faithful, shy cardinal hiding somewhere in the branches.

My friend says she prefers to decorate the tree by herself. Ritualistic and thoughtful, she pulls out the boxes and like me, remembers. Some ornaments were gathered at a happier time and she has to decide if she is strong enough this year to face them and remember. She discovers she is strong this year and she unwraps, remembers, maybe sheds a few tears, takes a deep breath, and hangs them on the tree. There. It’s done. It’s part of who she is and the healing comes. And the tree begins to twinkle with the dark memories being overcome by all the joyous ones. Light always overcomes darkness, but we must have both in order to recognize the difference. The darkest nights are when the stars shine brightest.

Our pastor said a long time ago, “Give your pain a name and when you do, healing comes.” Stop burying the darkness and hiding it away in tissue, storing it year after year, moving it from place to place. Give it a name and confront that which seeks to destroy. Look it in the eye and conquer the fear. Accept those things we cannot change. Look for the light and find the joy that always shines from above.

2 Corinthians 4:6    For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.


You are the sparkle that gives life to all that surrounds me. You bring the light that gives me hope and assurance for a future without darkness. Shine on me. Shine on my family this Christmas. Shine on a world that cries out in the darkness. Be our light.