And here we are. One more year. Almost as far as you can get from Christmas Day.
I hope your Christmas has been, and is being, filled with everything good. I’m quoting me to me here: “Christians who know the real meaning of the holy days should celebrate everything that is good about them—lights, trees, candles, songs, family, services, bells, friends, snow, sleds, presents, candy, laughter—with more joy than other people and not less. If we truly love Christ more than Christmas, then we’re free to love Christmas immensely and with a real freedom and genuine joy deeper than we could ever have otherwise. All that’s truly joyful and good is God’s. It would be nonsense to thank Santa for God; it may be very good sense indeed to thank God for Santa.”
Oh, I stand by that! My grandchildren have called me “the king of Christmas.” If they mean that no one enjoys it more than I do and is more intent on tasting the joy in every bit of its fruit, I joyfully plead guilty. But, of course, they know as well as I do that there is only one King of Christmas. And we might do well to notice that, as his early disciples figured out and as our little ones know instinctively already, if we’re really looking for Christ, he will be the one laughing with the children.
One of our family jokes is for a grandchild or two, after Christmas Day, to put on a fake frown and intone dolefully (about the time a few of their parents are considering bowing to the temptation to box up all the decorations early—oh, the shame of it!), “Christmas is over, Curtis!”
I beg to differ. And I like to think I have Christian history, dating back to A.D. 567 (look it up) on my side, regarding “the twelve days of Christmas.” History seems to indicate that a time of preparation, Advent, preceding the actual season and the celebration of Christ’s birth, was observed at least from about A.D. 480 [Wikipedia]. In any case, anything that honors the Lord and makes Christmas even more meaningful is fine with me. I want it all—the whole twelve days, “geese a’layin’” and “lords a’leapin’” not required, though they’re fun. (If you press me on the history and mention that Advent traditionally included some fasting, I might have to admit that I’m not a complete purist.)
Here, though, is a very practical point. We’re all tired after the main celebrations, but many of us who lead worship and help churches celebrate this beautiful time, as much as we love it, are truly “toast” pretty early in the days right after the Day. Yes, I’m still celebrating (“No, you sweet little folks, it’s not over!”), but it’s quieter now. And quietness is its own very real blessing.
I’ve tried to lead others in praise and reflection. Now for a few days, I’ll do my best to intentionally slow down more, drink in some stillness, and pause by the fire just to be and breathe and be grateful.
I know. The stillness won’t last. New Year’s sparklers and largely artificial joy are always a bit of a bump in my road. I am not, however, a complete New Year’s Grinch, and I’m truly thankful to be aboard to begin another year. Life is God’s sweet gift. But my hope is not in a new year and my impressive ability to steer my way through it. The only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever come close to keeping is the one I made decades ago about never making New Year’s resolutions.
If Christmas does what I’m sure God wants it to do in my soul, I’ll enter a new year buoyed by the hope of Bethlehem and the angelic proclamation that God is with us, Immanuel, and the Almighty has done and is still doing what we could never do and never even imagine.
That’s real hope, real because it centers completely on God and not at all on me. Sparklers are puny light compared to glory-fired angels. And Times Square will always be a backwater podunk anywhere in the same universe as Bethlehem.
You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!
Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.