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Christmas: trees of gratitude

By Sister Pat Lange

Trees have existed on Earth for countless millennia, gifting civilizations both past and present with their beauty and majesty. Poets have painted the canvas of our imaginations with words to describe these incredible citizens of nature - trees, our wooden neighbors, so essential for life on this planet. Nations claim their native trees as treasures to be cherished and protected - the cedars of Lebanon, the forests of sequoia and redwoods, the pines of Rome. Trees can be emissaries and ambassadors of inspiration, an inspiration that calls us to be our better selves.

This photo is of the Surviovor Tree found in Memorial plaza in autumn in New York on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. Photo by Jin Lee/911 Memorial

There is a callery pear tree that can be found among a grove of trees in the commercial area of one of the world's largest, busiest cities, New York City. This quiet grove is surrounded by canyons of skyscrapers that reach for the heavens, their windows mirroring sapphire skies, radiant sunshine and drifting clouds. Citizens of the world often visit this quiet grove with its notable pear tree. For this very tree was once covered with layers of soot and debris, its trunk burned, its wooden limbs broken and crushed, barely clinging to life, a tree yet determined, courageous and hopeful. For this tree, this very precious pear tree, is the Survivor Tree on the grounds of the 911 Memorial in New York City.

Today, after years of loving care, it once again stands healthy, proud and beautiful. Its wooden arms and green leaves sheltering and welcoming all who walk beneath it. Seedlings from this pear tree are gifted three times a year to communities throughout the world which have experienced trauma, the trauma of natural disasters or violence. This pear tree has become a symbol of hope, resilience, rebirth, strength, commitment and the power of the human spirit.

Christmas: Trees of Gratitude

It is December, and we have begun a new journey, the journey of Advent. It is that time of year to rescue Advent wreaths from their boxes and place them in sacred spaces. During this time, we will light our Advent candles, their light reminding us of the light of the one who is to come. The air will resonate with songs and prayers offered during this holy season of patient waiting. But as we journey through the weeks of Advent, we also will begin a search for a tree, and its place of honor in our homes. It is the Christmas tree, the tree that evokes so many vivid memories, memories of Christmases past with its accompanying crèche, rainbow-colored lights, sparkling ornaments and the sheer joy of Christmas itself.

This year, as we walk through these weeks of Advent, consider creating simple handmade ornaments of gratitude as decorations for the Christmas tree. Gratitude for:

  • hope given by a vaccine
  • the courage and uncompromising dedication of healthcare workers
  • patience and empathy
  • gratitude for smiles of encouragement
  • all that we have and can share
  • those who wear the garments of tolerance
  • the little things we take for granted
  • the promised birth of a Savior Child, a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager
  • discovering what really matters
  • words of comfort
  • messengers of hope
  • neighbors
  • a time of deeper reflection
  • unexpected blessings and miracles of grace,
  • all that has been and will be

As we approach this Christmas, may our Christmas trees become trees of gratitude inspiring us to be our better selves; and may the rainbow-colored lights that surround each trees of gratitude become the brightest of beacons, beacons of hope and faith and unmitigated joy.

Enjoy another reflection from Sister Pat Lange.


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