Glenda Simpkins Hoffman
2021 will always be remembered as the year my Christmas tree came down just before Holy Week. I’m sure my neighbors and anyone who goes by my house is wondering why it is still in my living room window near the end of March. Normally, I might care about what others think, but not this year. While all my other Christmas decoration were taken down months ago at the usual time, this year I made the deliberate choice to keep the tree up longer.
My Christmas tree isn’t just a decoration; it’s a sacred object that reminds me of the light shining in the darkness, the eternal presence of Christ, the God who is always with us. Each ornament represents a gift of grace that God has showered on me over many years. I always enjoy the tree as a way of remembering, giving thanks, and praising Christ for the many blessings he has given.
As many know, this has been a tough year with my husband’s diagnosis of brain cancer, surgery, and ongoing recovery. My mother had a health crisis in early December and was put on hospice. And then our longtime senior pastor retired. And as with everyone else, COVID-19 has disrupted our everyday lives, families, and work. There has been lots of letting go and feeling out of control. So in the midst of a season of desolation, I could choose the consolation and joy of getting up early each morning of the dark winter months, turning on the Christmas tree lights, and spending time with God who is with me.
I had anticipated taking the tree down after Pete retired, but I just wasn’t ready. However, this week I know it’s time to let go. Along with the growing daylight, other circumstances have changed. We are now a month into the transition period, and I’m settling into this new role as interim head of staff. My mom just moved from the small town and house she lived in for over 60 years to a new city in an assisted living facility near my brother and his family in Reno, Nevada. My husband Stuart is still receiving immunotherapy and occupational therapy, but he will have his second COVID vaccine and I will have my first. There has been a lot of letting go through many changes.
But I think the biggest reason I am ready to take down my tree is because next week is Holy Week.
I’m ready to let go and walk with Jesus all the way to the cross. For me, letting go of my Christmas tree is a symbol of a small inner surrender, a willingness to fully live into this new season of life I didn’t choose but lies before me. I confess I’m aware of some resistance, but I choose this one small step as a sign of my willingness to let go and follow Jesus into a new season that is uncertain but in which he is present.
Why am I sharing this? I suspect I am not the only one who is tired and frustrated and perhaps growing impatient with the pandemic, uncertainty, and being out of control. With spring and growing numbers of people getting vaccinated, there are signs of hope that things are changing. But many are growing impatient wanting to have things our way or just to get to some semblance of normal.
In this Lenten season, we have been focusing on letting go and letting God. It’s not just a sermon series title for me, it’s been a way of life like I have never known before in my life. But it has been helpful for me to be reminded of how Jesus had to confront his disciples’ blindness, deafness, self-sufficiency. They had to learn to let go of pride, prestige, power, position, control, and expectations in order to let God transform and empower them to follow him in the way of love and service.
They are not the only ones who need to learn to let go. So do I. So do we all. And Holy Week is the week we remember and give thanks for Jesus showing the way. So many go directly from the high of Palm Sunday to the glory of Easter Sunday, but our faith is based on both the trifold truth that Jesus “was crucified, died, was, buried” then “on the third day he rose from the dead.” Jesus had to let go and be willing die for our sins before God would raise him from the dead, before he would ascend to heaven as the risen and reigning King.
It’s hard to let go and walk with Jesus all the way to the cross. We can have all kinds of reasons not to, but I invite you to acknowledge any resistance you may have and to choose to let go. Along with letting go of my Christmas tree, I intend to let go by participating in the Holy Week services as a way of keeping vigil with Jesus. I invite you to consider doing the same and to think of it as a small surrender, a way to remember with gratitude all that he went through in suffering.
Read the entire Passion narrative during Holy Week in our devotions. Recall Jesus’ great love in showing his disciples the way of servanthood by washing their feet. Remember the institution of the Lord’s Supper as the new kingdom meal. Recollect Jesus’ agony in the garden, his suffering in being beaten, and his death on the cross. Remember and give thanks for such a great sacrifice and pure act of love poured out for you.
Walking with Jesus all the way to the cross is uncomfortable and messy, but it’s important for us to do—now more than ever. It’s important for us to remember how he let go to let God, how he died so that we could live. Death and resurrection, dying and rising is the nature of our life in Christ in the world. So we walk with Jesus not only to remember what he did but also so we can learn the way to live as we follow our faithful savior.