January 1, 2017
(from a retired pastor to his family, the Church)
I have been thinking of you this morning. I believe we share the experience of trying to hang on to the Christmas spirit in the days immediately after the big day. It always feels a little disappointing when we come to that point where we begin to pack away all those cherished memories and decorations for another year. Before Christmas, no matter how old we may be, the weeks of Advent stimulate an anticipation that fills us with a sense that something wonderful is heading our way. Beginning the 26th of December much of this begins to fade away into the fog of what we think of as normal life.
This year the contrast between Christmas Day and our everyday life may seem more stark because the day after Christmas is a Monday. The first day of the work week has a way of arriving with its own demands. Regardless of what we may do professionally, our work demands our best and our full attention. This is true if we are rocket scientists or parent and homemaker. Even knowing all of this, I am reluctant to allow Christmas and the life I live 364 days a year to be two unrelated things. That would feel like living the majority of the year as if the Christmas event had never taken place. This may be why the tradition of the Christian faith is to observe Christmas as a 12 day season, beginning on December 25th.
Would the Feast of the Incarnation change for us if we actually observed it as a 12 day season? I for one would keep the Christmas decorations up the entire season. In addition Christmas carols would continue to fill our home. They are too moving to be sung only one day a year. If I were not retired, one of the changes would be going to work during a celebration that most of us try to stay home and spend with our families. Maybe an even bigger change would be the need to re-engage in the minutia and responsibilities of everyday life which we set aside for the big day. This would mean that my “real” life and Christmas would begin to be commingled, and their differences blurred. Maybe that is the point of the 12 day season.
This morning I am reminded that every child that enters this world will leave it. In between are all the joys and struggles that every life knows. The original Christmas was not insulated from any of this, and neither was Jesus’ life. This may be why we observe three Holy Days within the 12 day Christmas season. Just in case you don’t remember, they are the Feasts of Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, and the Holy Innocents. They mark the real life events of a man who died at a ripe old age, and others who ended their lives tragically. You could hardly do more to mix Christmas with “real” life if you tried. This complex package of the season of The Feast of the Incarnation reflects what life in the flesh is all about. Our complex lives are what Jesus’ birth is intended to embrace and change.
Let’s not be too quick to pack the birth of God in Christ away this year. Instead, with each new morning let’s remember that the Christ child longs to continually be born into our everyday world through each of us. The gift of that birth is intended to be part of every breath we breathe throughout each year. When what took place in that inn in Bethlehem becomes part of our everyday lives; each day will be transformed for us and those around us.
The plan at our home is to keep the decorations up through the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th. And we plan to keep them up in our hearts year round. What’s your plan?
“Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of
your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our
hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (BCP 213)