Ornamented Life

(Dear reader—as I have a lot on my plate, or as this article calls it, a “lot on one branch,” I’m going to recycle one of my newsletter articles I really enjoyed writing [and several of you mentioned to me you really enjoyed reading] for the new newsletter readers we have among us. If it didn’t make sense to you the first time, I pray it will this time!)
I was chuckling to myself last night as I looked at our Christmas tree. Julianna had clumped all of the ornaments that she had hung onto one or two lucky branches at the bottom of the tree, which were now drooping down and spilling their ornaments onto the floor. After the kids had gone to bed, I surveyed the tree and looked for the empty spots into which I could diffuse the ornaments. You can always tell a tree that has been “trimmed” by a child, can’t you? It’s not uncommon for children to have this style for decorating a tree. But—most of us prefer for things to be “spread out” a bit. It should look nice and even. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ornament our lives in such a steady and well-spaced manner as well? Too often, our spiritual lives look much like a Christmas tree left solely to Julianna’s hands. We have clumps of beautiful ornaments on a few spots on the tree—perhaps even numerous shiny things on a single branch, but then large and glaring expanses of emptiness as well. I think this is why Wesley and other great leaders of religious tradition have advocated a daily discipline of prayer or spiritual practice. Though you don’t always have a memorable spiritual experience in every encounter with prayer or practice, you’re at least giving yourself (and God) the opportunity to “hang an ornament” on every open space across the expanse of your life. Spiritual discipline doesn’t have to be hands folded and knees bent prayer—one of mine this time of year is just taking some moments of silence to gaze at the Christmas tree! (For a truly wondrous effect, I sometimes lay down with my head under the tree looking up through the branches and glowing C7 bulbs)…Now does the idea of your pastor laying under the Christmas tree like a mechanic under a car give you a laugh? Good! Hope you’re enjoying the Advent season—see you at church.

St. Nicholas