It’s still Christmas

Dec 29, 2015 by

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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 percent 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 12-day festival that ended with a feast on the Eve of Epiphany on Jan. 5 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! Let’s 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 savior, the One who is faithful and true, has come.
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).

Let’s 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 among 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 who 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 Dec. 25. 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. 26).

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 and 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.

Christine Sine is executive director of Mustard Seed Associates, a small organization founded by her and her husband, Tom Sine, to assist churches and Christian organizations to engage the challenges of the 21st century. She writes at God Space, where this post originally appeared.

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