Now that Christmas Day is over many of us feel let down because the day we have been anticipating for so long is over. The malls strip their elaborate decorations and junk their remaining Christmas stocks with huge 50-70% off sales. The Christmas wreaths and trees are thrown out for the garbage collectors and our frenzied activities give way to a low grade depression.
Christmas isn’t really over. In the sixth century it was decided that celebrating Christmas just for a day didn’t provide time to celebrate all the joy that Christ’s birth brought into the world. They made Christmas into a twelve day festival that ended with a feast on the Eve of Epiphany on January 5th to celebrate the coming of the wise men and the emergence of God’s eternal kingdom. Yep that’s right, for those of us who are Christ followers, the 12 days of Christmas begin with Christmas Day they don’t end there as many malls would have us believe. In countries where this understanding of Christmas has not been co-opted by the commercialism of our society Christmas trees are not decorated until Christmas Eve and remain in the house sparking with light and life until the Eve of Epiphany.
What I love about this season of Christmas is that that in many ways we have it to ourselves. The consumer culture has discarded the season. We are just beginning to celebrate,
This is the season when we are meant to celebrate with joy and gratitude the wonder of a God whose love is so great that he sent a much loved son to dwell amongst us. How incredible! How wonderful! Lets take advantage of every day of the Christmas season.
Of course it isn’t all about joy and good feelings though. Those of you who are familiar with the liturgical calendar are aware that this is also the feast of St Stephen the first martyr, a reminder that coming to the manger and taking the coming of the Christ child seriously is not about fuzzy feelings and a warm glow.
If you are looking for music to celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen and Boxing Day as this second day of Christmas is known in commonwealth countries, consider Good King Wenceslas. The story of this carol is about Wenceslas braving harsh winter weather to give alms to the poor on the Feast of Stephen (Dec. 26th). The text, by John Neal, is from 1853; the tune ‘Tempus adest floridum’ is from the 13c Finnish collection Piae Cantiones.
Now is a great time to reflect on how we want to follow Christ throughout the year. Now is the time to think about how we focus our entire lives on that deep longing within our hearts for the wholeness, peace, and abundance of God’s emerging new world.
For me the more relaxed season after Christmas Day is a great time to think about my observances throughout the year. Tom & I usually take on of our retreats during these days. This year we will not be doing that but I still plan to take time to sit quietly and listen for the voice of God sharing with me hopes, expectations and longings for the coming year.