One of my favorite Advent hymns gives this reflection its title. There’s something wonderful about including the cosmos in our Christmas celebrations. I grew up with fresh-cut Christmas trees, usually a short-needled double balsam. It would appear on the enclosed front porch one day, lying on the swing in the cold Wisconsin air for a week or so before it came in the house. There was always something magical about bringing this little piece of the forest in the house. The artificial trees that have become more practical in my adult life never quite match that splendor. Christmas can become a celebration of artifice and manufactured wonders. From the dangling icicle lights along the roofline to the inflatable cartoon characters on suburban lawns, we run the risk of treating this holiday as a time of one-upping not only the neighbors but also God. But we know deep down that no factory in China can produce something as wonderful as the tiniest miracle in God’s creation.
Each year, the pope blesses a Christmas tree and crèche in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. There’s a protocol in the ceremony that recognizes with gratitude the origin of the tree and the people whose gift it is. It serves as a reminder of the many connections among us, but also the connection with nature that has been a part of the human race from the beginning of creation. Redemption is about more than a perfection of human behavior. Scripture tells us that all creation is redeemed in the coming of the Christ. It’s good to remind ourselves of that as we decorate our homes and yards for the season.
As you plan your holiday decorations, find a way to incorporate something natural in the mix. It might be a real pine or boxwood wreath on the door, a freshly cut Christmas tree, a Christmas cactus, a dish of paperwhite narcissi, or a showy amaryllis bulb. Not only do these remind us of God’s natural world, in many cases we can watch the miracle of life as they grow and bloom throughout the season.
—from the book The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek