by Christine Sine
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.
Shout to the nations, sing to the whole earth,
The Eternal One reigns!
The world is anchored by his presence
and will not shake loose.
So, let the heavens resound in gladness!
Let joy be the earth’s rhythm
as the seas and all its creatures roar.
Let the fields grow in triumph
a grand jubilee for all that live there.
Let all the trees of the forest dig in and reach high
with songs of joy before the Eternal one.
For Christ our saviour the One who is faithful and true
His throne was established from the beginning of the world.
He will set the world right by his truth and justice.
His righteousness and peace and wholeness
will last through all eternity.
(Adapted from Psalm 96).
Lets Take Action:
Sit down with your family or friends now that Christmas day is over – read the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds in the fields. Imagine it. Christ’s birth was so incredible that even the angels were excited. In fact they were so excited that they could not contain themselves. They had to break into the earthly realm with shouts of joy proclaiming that the promised Messiah had come to live amongst us.
Discuss your reactions to this story and to the whole account of the birth of Christ. When you read through the gospel account how do you feel? What is your earliest memory of Christ appearing to you? Share how you felt at that time and talk about the difference that Christ’s presence has made in your life.
Now ask yourselves: What most excites you today about the presence of Christ in your life? How does his presence impact the way you live? Next discuss ways that you could share the joy of Christmas with others during the following days. You might like to write down one suggestion for each of the 12 days of Christmas that could extend the joy of the season to others
Here are some suggestions. Do you know people that are alone at this season? Take them out for a meal or invite them to go skiing or if you are in the southern hemisphere, swimming with you. Share with them your reasons for continuing to celebrate the joy of Christmas beyond December 25th. Do you know people who are disabled? Take them for a drive around your neighbourhood to enjoy the Christmas lights. Do you have friends, acquaintances or family your rarely speak to? Phone one person each evening during Christmas to share your joy with them.
It Isn’t All About Joy
Of course it isn’t all about joy and good feelings though. Those familiar with the liturgical calendar are aware that the day after Christmas day is also the feast of St Stephen the first martyr, a reminder that coming to the manger and taking discipleship 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 some of us call this second day of Christmas, 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).
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.