Inventing Tradition: Simplicity   Leave a comment

We think of traditions as ancient, honored customs… but they had to begin somewhere, sometime.  After all, the first Christmas was in a pile of barnyard hay with a few dirty sheep-herders gawking nearby (the natty, gift-bearing VIPs showed up later).  Jesus was not born in a room full of colored lights and snow-flake medallions.  Even the angels singing out in the muddy fields didn’t show up for his party as far as we know.  So Kimberly and I decided to start from scratch in creating our own unique holiday traditions.  We planned to emphasize a different aspect of the season each week of advent… only it isn’t playing out as we had expected.



We both like Christmas conifers, and the use of evergreens in winter speaks to us of life outwitting death, of stubborn hope in the midst of barrenness.  So we decked our banisters and brought in a scrub tree from the yard.  My idea was to decorate in stages, emphasizing each particular advent week focus, but our scraggly, homegrown tree looked more like a sign of want than of hope.  It started life as a weed in our flowerbed, and not having the heart to toss it out, I dug it up and planted it in the back yard.  It has been growing there for four years, completely neglected, and is now 6 feet of meager, sickly green thistles.  Those barbs were painful enough to scrape against, but since the branches were so weak, we had to shove decorations deep inside.  We should have worn long sleeves and gloves.  That pathetic see-through shrub had all its defenses up… a tree thick with issues… how appropriate for our home.  It was truly a symbol of life… life as we know it.


To put a positive spin on our impecunious Christmas, our first week spoke of simplicity.  No lights, tinsel, streamers, or presents under the tree.  Even if we had a star, the top of the tree was too flimsy to hold it.  Kimberly and I live out of a shortage of resources.  I didn’t have the energy to find and care for a nice pine or fir, or even the initiative to plan that far in advance.  I had a little energy, and with it I transplanted a sprout, and now we have a tree, spindly as it is.  Having fewer resources makes for a tight circle of possibilities, and that may feel like a bare prison stripped of goodness or a narrow shelf above a sheer cliff.  We have felt that at times.  But a simple lifestyle may also be seen as freedom from the clutter of excess and from the need for a wider cleft in the rock.  We have fewer choices and less to protect, and that helps us focus on what is truly important, helps us enjoy the simple things more richly, gives us access to one another’s hearts more openly and easily.  The only difference between a simple lifestyle and an impoverished one is faith, and that difference is profound.


Posted December 13, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal

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