By the time Christmas rolls around, most of us have probably had quite enough of Christmas. With Christmas music surrounding us in shops since well before Thanksgiving, the abundance of Christmas decorations, and our own sense of busyness of the season, many of us likely reach a Christmas saturation point somewhere right around Christmas Day. We are ready to move on.
All around us, that’s exactly what happens. Neighbors toss their sad, naked Christmas trees out onto the curb, starting the day after Christmas. The Christmas music suddenly vanishes. Some of the decorations remain, but the festiveness of the season swiftly fades away.
In such an atmosphere, it’s important for Christians to realize that Christmas Day is actually the beginning of the Christmas season, not the end. You know the Twelve Days of Christmas? Those begin on Christmas, not before Christmas.
The secular environment in which we live doesn’t do much, if anything at all, to recognize that the season that precedes Christmas is actually Advent, a season with its own themes and colors. Sometime in the fall the switch to Christmas begins, Advent carelessly left behind.
For Christians, though, Christmas marks the beginning of a very important time—and that time is not about golden rings, drummers drumming, ladies dancing, maids a’milking or a partridge in a pear tree. The Christmas season is a time to rediscover one of the most significant mysteries of our faith—the incarnation—and to take some time to ponder and wonder about what it means for us to worship God in this way, and what it means to follow this One who came to us as an infant.
For the last few years, at the end of Old South’s annual Christmas Eve service, I’ve used as a benediction a poem written by Howard Thurman:
When the song of the angels is stilled
When the star in the sky is gone
When the kings and princes are home
When the shepherds are back with the flocks,
Then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost
to heal those broken in spirit
to feed the hungry
to release the oppressed
to rebuild the nations
to bring peace among all peoples
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say,
Then the work of Christmas begins.
In this holy season, Christians ought to resist the temptation to move on so quickly from Christmas, and instead, to recognize and to take seriously and prayerfully, the season of Christmas that begins on Christmas Day. How does the work of Christmas begin anew for you, for us?