Well, that’s that. Christmas is over. On to the New Year’s Resolutions. They don’t seem to last any longer than Christmas.
People have taken their decorations down and stores have their Valentine’s Day stuff out. And that’s fair, I guess. The first part, anyway. Let’s move on, it’s a new year. Of course, there’s that English tradition that there’s twelve days of Christmas and it’s bad luck to leave decorations up after that. (Yes, that Twelve Days - as in “a partridge in a pear tree.”) That would get you to January 6. If you were from one of the cultures where the church follows the Julian calendar, like Ukrainians, for example, Christmas Day is actually January 7 on the Gregorian calendar (the one most western countries use), so if you were to combine them, you could keep your decorations up until January 19. You might be a little confused, but you could do it, if you wanted to.
Some people put their Christmas decorations away on Boxing Day.
But. Is that all that we’re putting away?
It’s one thing to pack up all the decorations and the wrapping paper and the special recipes, but do we put Christmas away, too? I heard someone on the radio the other day say that he’s sorry that Christmas is over, but he can’t wait for things to get back to normal. “Normal?” Maybe we need to be a little bit more discerning about what “normal” is, because I think we could stand to have a little bit more of the stuff that makes Christmas special one day of the year, in all of the other days of the year, too.
I don’t mean the decor, the carols or even the snow. I mean what Christmas is really about. If Christmas is about love and joy and goodwill to all people, if it’s about hope and peace and hoping for peace, couldn’t we use a little more of that every day of our lives? Why would we only want those things once a year? Why would we make them “special” rather than commonplace?
Many of the stories we hear in church in the weeks after Christmas try to remind us to hang on longer and look deeper. They’re stories about revealing, about knowing and understanding who this Jesus is and what his arrival means.
In the nativity story in Luke’s Gospel, angels tell the shepherds who Jesus is. In Matthew, it’s magi - wise ones from the east - who follow the star to Jesus. It’s that story that’s marked on the church calendar as Epiphany (January 6), which literally means the revealing or realization of the essence or meaning of something. The magi “know” who Jesus is and what this birth will mean to the world.
But, in the wake of those, there are lesser known stories too. When the infant Jesus was presented in the Temple to be named (Luke 2), the Holy Spirit reveals him as the promised Messiah to the elderly Simeon and Anna. When the adult Jesus comes to John to be baptized, the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and a voice from heaven identifies him as “my beloved son” (Luke 3, Matthew 3, Mark 1). John, himself, is the one who is meant to herald Jesus’ arrival. There are so many stories like this that serve to remind us, look, here is someone to pay attention to, someone special to follow.
Though Christmas Day marks the simple birth of a child, so much more comes from Bethlehem than that. Wouldn’t it be a different world, if our “normal” days were as special as Christmas and filled with the same Spirit? Don’t put that spirit away with the decorations. Keep out the love and caring, joy and living of the Christmas Spirit. You’ll need it everyday.