"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” ~Matthew 2:1-2
It’s the 26th of December. Christmas is over and done. At least, for most people it is. But for Christians, it is actually just begun. It’s actually just the 2nd of twelve days of Christmas. Why? Because Christmas is more than a day. It’s a season. It’s a way of life. It’s one part of a much bigger story.
We have spent the last four weeks looking at the four main themes of Advent. Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. Advents is the season where we anticipate the birth of Jesus. If you, or any one close to you, has ever had a child, you understand this sort of waiting. There are things to be done to prepare: get the nursery ready, the car seat installed correctly, the tiny little clothes folded neatly close to the changing table. There are things you are wondering about: will the baby be healthy, will the delivery go smoothly, who will they look more like, what will their personality be?
The waiting during Advent has a similar feel to it. We prepare to celebrate Christmas by buying gifts, decorating our homes, baking our favorite holiday treats, and maybe even digging out that festive Christmas sweater. We wonder about how everyone is doing, if the weather will mess with our travel plans, and if old family tensions will rise to the surface as everyone gathers together. On Christmas day we often celebrate the culmination of the waiting and preparations while we gather with loved ones. By the next day, we are often off and running to the next event as we finish the left overs in the fridge and begin packing away the decorations.
But what if we looked at this season of Christmas like a new mother who is bringing her baby home for the first time? When a baby comes home, life changes forever. Instantly sleep schedules change, laundry is added to the pile, and priorities get shifted. In the longer term, a new relationship grows and develops as this tiny person grows and finds their voice and place in the world.
Similarly, Christmas brings some instant, noticeable changes. The feelings of generosity, good will, kindness, and hope this time of year often brings to the surface. Christmas is one of the most heavily attended church services of the year because the reason for the season still remains in the hearts and minds of many of us, even if we make it to church the other 51 weeks of the year. If it made absolutely no difference to people, I have trouble believing they would continue to show up for Christmas services.
What if we acknowledged those momentary feelings of Christmas were meant to change our lives, in some way or another, the other 51 weeks of the year? And could have a cumulative effect when celebrated year after year? The changes which happen in life the first few days a baby comes home to its family don’t stay exactly the same for the next 18 years. The child grows, matures, learns new skills such as walking, talking, and (to the joy of parents everywhere) how to use the bathroom alone. Similarly, celebrating the real reason for Christmas, if even in small ways, each year and throughout the year helps us “grow up” in our faith over time.
The season of Christmas is a reminder that Christmas day is only the start of something new God is doing in the world. Jesus needed time to grow into an adult, to learn what it was to be human, to appreciate how, with each passing year, the various, annual celebrations and memorials of his Jewish faith deepened his understanding of what it was to be the Messiah.
A family I got to know during my years in youth ministry had a rather unique tradition. They exchanged Christmas gifts on Epiphany, January 6th. Why? Because it is the day we celebrate the arrival of the three kings (or wisemen) bringing gifts to Jesus. When the star appeared in the sky on Christmas day, they began their journey from the east to bring the new king gifts. A journey which, contrary to so many of our Christmas manger scenes, likely took over two years to complete. A journey which we remember as we celebrate these 12 days of the Christmas season.
A journey which reminds us of our journey to someday, in heaven, stand face to face with Jesus and honor him, to set our life before him as the greatest gift we have to give. Until then, let some part of Christmas remain with you throughout these next days, weeks, and months until next year when we once again wait with anticipation the birth of Jesus and are reminded of the immediate and long term implications of God becoming man to pay the ultimate price for our sin.
1. Enjoy this interesting version of the classic song, The 12 Days of Christmas
2. The song is also said to remind of us of some important truths about our Christian faith. You can read more about what the verses mean by clicking HERE.
3. Don't let Christmas end just because Christmas day has come and gone. Play a Christmas song. Do something to celebrate Epiphany at the end of the church's Christmas season on Janurary 6. Leave one Christmas decoration up year round to remind you of the season.