Okay, today’s holiday-framed, logic-probing question: If one is celebrating what is, arguably, the most significant event in all human history — the physical arrival on terra firma of God in human form — shouldn’t said celebration be undertaken with some heartiness? Some intensity? Shouldn’t one squeeze from the holiday every peppermint-flavored drop?
If you answered, “Yes!”, consider yourself one of Santa’s perceptive elves.
Christmas, of course, is supposed to be the commemoration of exactly that: God the Father dispatching God the Son to become a sinless man living among terminally sinful men, taking on Himself the punishment for their wickedness (the death penalty!), then rising back to life to bring them into eternal relationship with Him, build His earthly church and reign as Lord forever.
Pretty heavy stuff. Certainly deserving a national — even international — tinsel-draped festival..
And, indeed, millions do leap into Christmastime with both feet. Some of them even remember its original purpose while doing so!
But, as an incurable Christmas — and Jesus – lover, I’m of the mind one can hardly “keep Christmas” too energetically.
How can a person goose every potential blessing from this delightful time of year? The answer’s not complicated, but, like most of life’s worthy facets, it does require a bit of forethought, a dose of intentionality.
Upfront, that means shaking off appreciation-killing familiarity . One must determine decisively to value this annual spell, to purposefully maximize enjoyment of the Christmastide experience.
And that means making time to do it. So, for example, at the Pauwels’ ponderosa, we usually can say “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” sometime around mid-November — the decorations go up, “Silent Night”, “Silver Bells”, et al, begin sweetening our domicile.
But who decreed that 12:01 AM December 26 — with the suddenness of Santa’s sleigh hitting my roof — marks the season’s demise? Christmas themed TV programs, 24/7 holiday commercials, most-wonderful-time-of-the-year radio music? They practically vanish the morning after the Big Day. And by the 28th or 29th? Fugghedaboutit.
What about folks who douse the Christmas lights and heave their now-threadbare tree twenty-four hours after gift-giving formalities have wrapped?
Has it never occurred to the average holiday-ing American that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” signifiy something more than a quirky, head-scratching ditty? The song, in fact, addresses the literal stretch between Christmas Day proper and January 5th — an interlude during which folks used to protractedly fete ” the reason for the season”. Regions of the British Commonwealth, in fact, still observe aspects of these distinguished dozen (Boxing Day, Twelfth Night, etc.)
Meantime, in the States? The immediate post-Christmas slump practically triggers Valentine’s Day preparations.
I always found it slightly puzzling when, in It’s a Wonderful Life, the Bailey family just gets around to decorating their tree Christmas Eve. Their enthusiasm leaves small doubt that George and Mary’s brood takes the holiday pretty seriously — so, why delay until the night before the Main Event to get going? Then I remembered – that’s often how it used to be: Christmas merriment kicked off in earnest the 24th and continued into the first week of the new year.
I recall one of my teenage buddies’ mother’s deploring the modern habit of shuttering the whole holiday when midnight chimed on the 25th. Apparently, she was of that George-Bailey generation which kept things going into January. I didn’t quite get her beef back then — but I do now when, too often, I witness the criminal spectacle of a neighbor’s sad-sack Scotch Pine banished to driveway’s end by dawn December 26.
I’m all for drawing-out the run-up to Christmas Day. But no law requires we instantly toss away the merrymaking – along with the shredded wrapping paper – the day after. Why not take a stab at reviving parts of the “Twelve Days” tradition? How about a Christmas party for loved ones two days, three, after the 25th? Exchange a gift or two between the conventional Christmas-morning slot and those frosty days of early January. The point? Simply create more opportunities for luxuriating in the season’s glorious emphases: personal relationships, joyful themes, heavenly realities.
Next: Pause. Sometime soon. Mull over the everywhere-you-look staples that, predictably if briefly, dominate Christmastime:Those bright lights gleaming during what, meteorologically, is the darkest patch of the year. Reds and Greens – the hues of life — blazing from every venue; and silver and gold — shades of royalty and riches. Evergreens, of course – wreaths, trees, garland.
What does it all imaginatively signify? Profound and transcendent truths, you’ll find, if you give it some thought.
Apply your eardrums analytically to the lyrics of the all-too-common carols and hymns saturating this calendar period. Amidst all the “harks”, “angels” and references to “the Child” and “the Son”, you’ll find not only exquisite poetry, but beauteously stop-you-in-your-tracks expressions of revelation. Bluntly, it could change your life. Forever.
Which leads, obviously, to “that old story” about One identified by this holiday’s first syllable: Christ-mas. Despite so many’s drifting from that recognition nowadays, His advent is what initially sparked this annual wingding; and it’s the lone reality which lends it enduring power.
What has been your response to the remarkable visitation of “the babe, the Son of Mary”? Throngs coo, dewy-eyed, over “the baby Jesus” – then turn away, leaving Him in the manger. So many, functionally oblivious that He left that stable to mature into an adult. One who also happened to be God, and who bequeathed to the ages proclamations of sublime wisdom which have singularly shaped history, molded Western Civilization and, most importantly, transformed the lives of numberless multitudes over the centuries.
Christmas’ message was delivered to generate more than a special, luminescent day off from work once yearly. It demands rapt attention, then a migration from sterile mental assent to what Scripture designates “heart faith”: Jesus Christ did all that for me??
Such convictions will make the most of any Christmas, anytime, anywhere. For twelve full days and way beyond.
Image: Courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aroadretraveled/5767154677/