When I was a kid, it seemed like Christmas Day would never come. I remember the excitement every morning of opening a new window on my paper Advent calendar. I would crease back the paper flap to uncover the tiny picture inside, knowing that we were one day closer to the glorious reveal of the presents under the Christmas tree. As I was falling asleep on Christmas Eve, I would strain to hear the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof.
When I was a kid, Christmas was a very, very exciting day. We had a traditional, white, middle-class Christmas Day. The pile of gifts under the tree appeared enormous. We kids opened presents in our pajamas then spent the rest of the day playing with our cousins and our new toys while my grandmother and mother readied the Christmas feast. I stuffed myself with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and pie (all homemade) then went to bed sleepy and satisfied.
When I was a kid, the day after Christmas felt like the biggest let down of the year. 364 days until next Christmas. At least my birthday was in April. April wasn’t so terribly far away, I reasoned.
When I was a kid, I did not know that Christmas was more than one day. I did not know that Christmas was (and is) twelve days, to be exact. Christmas is a season.
As an adult, I have come to appreciate more and more the season of Christmas. The preparations for December 25th are finished. We have completed much of our shopping, cooking, baking, entertaining, and visiting. Yet, the festive lights, colorful decorations, and joyous proclamation of Emmanuel, God With Us continue.
The season of Christmas is actually the more correct time to sing all the carols and songs that we have heard on the radio and in stores since well before Thanksgiving. While other are shopping the post-Christmas sales, feel free to crank up “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” If you are in a more contemplative mood, perhaps “O Little Town of Bethlehem” or “In the Bleak Midwinter” will suit.
There are twelve days to revel in the great interruption God has made in human history by coming in the form of a baby.
We mark the end of the Christmas season with Epiphany. Epiphany is a fancy word that basically means an appearance of God. There are many epiphanies related in the Scripture. The one we see most often represented this time of year is the visit of the magi to see Jesus.
Nativity scenes usually include three “wise men” by the manger. In reality, the visit of the wise men was probably several months (if not years) after Jesus’ actual birth. Jesus’ visitors from the east traveled by foot, setting out only when they saw the star over Bethlehem.
Sometimes God acts in a decisive event like the birth of Jesus. The implications of that event unfold over time like the twelve days of Christmas. The season of Christmas has taught me that it ain’t over until it’s over.