Merry Christmas Grace Family!
No need to check your calendar, yes, it is January, but by the time you receive the newsletter it will still be the Christmas season according to the church calendar. I’m sure you’re aware that the season lasts 12 day and is thought to be the period of time from the birth of Christ until the arrival of the Magi. Of course, in our secular world Christmas lasts quite a bit longer with the arrival of Christmas decorations sometime in October. But it definitely ends on the 26th of December.
It is a busy time of year for many, and often filled with a fair amount of pressure, obligations and responsibilities. I can imagine that once all the presents and cards have been opened, the dishes washed from the holiday meal, and goodbyes said to family members some breath a sigh of relief and may even say out loud, “I’m glad that’s finally over!” Such is the nature of the biggest and most profitable retail holiday.
Of course, Christmas is not a retail holiday, but a celebration of the birth of our Savior. As I wrote last month some of us need to be intentional about combating the hostile takeover that is the retail holiday. One of the blessings of the extended Christmas season is for at least the 11 days following Christmas Day the pressure that often accompanies the blessed holiday is gone (though those credit cards bills are yet to come!) and we can maybe recenter and focus on the blessing of the Day.
I haven’t always felt that way. For years Christmas meant the busiest time of the year for me. Not, because of my life in ministry though. I spent the better part of two decades in the restaurant and retail business and frankly dreaded the hoards of people that flooded my workplaces celebrating or searching for that perfect bottle of wine to give as a gift. I definitely breathed a sigh of relief when it was over and shouted, “I’m so glad it’s over!” It wasn’t until my life in ministry that I truly developed an appreciation for the extended Christmas season.
I love the build up of Advent and the eagerness of anticipating that blessed day. I also love the 11 extra days we celebrate in the Church. And it’s not just because I’d like to delay taking down the plethora of Christmas decorations that cover the outside and inside of our home. As I’ve gotten older and matured in my faith and my relationship with Christ that moment we celebrate on the 25th has become a more profound blessing in its meaning and whose impact lasts well beyond the overbearing retail holiday and 11 days that follow.
How can it not? What happened that day thousands of years ago in Bethlehem had an indescribable impact on our collective world and set in motion the fulfillment of our secure salvation. That seems to me to be something that should be celebrated every single day of the year, not just for a few weeks or even months. I get the retail fatigue, and I am relieved when the retailers begin to focus on Valentine’s Day. But the sense of profound gratitude for the birth of our Savior is something I give thanks for every day and embrace the hope, peace, love and joy that the incarnation made possible. I need all of it to thrive in a world where the birth of Jesus is, from a capitalist perspective, an opportunity to shore up the bottom line and finish out the year in the black.
Just as I tried to encourage you all to be more intentional during Advent to embrace the joy of the season, I do so again in January with regard to Christmas. I like to leave a reminder of Christmas up all year in our home to remind me of all that the blessed day represents. I may even sing a Christmas song or two in my head in May or August. What took place so long ago in a little town in a distant land has shaped me to be the person of faith I am today, and I continue to be amazed and awed by the gift God gave us every day. How about you?
Yours in Christ,