When I was a kid, my waiting for the next Christmas commenced on December 26 and the ensuing year seemed like a long one indeed. Nowadays a year seems like a month with all of my memories of Christmases past mashed together in my brain. I used to be able to remember what I gave to whom for years in a row. That ability left after I had kids. These days it is an accomplishment if I can remember to give the gifts in the first place. I am famous for putting things in a “safe place”, hidden so well to even myself! It is always a nice surprise in July to stumble upon something left over from Christmas. At least if it is not edible.
I wish I had known that Christmas didn’t end the day after Christmas back then. It was always a big let down when the hymns stopped on the popular radio stations. One can almost hear the wheels come to a complete halt. If it were not for returns, the stores would even slow down. And most everyone thought that the guy down the street who still had the Christmas tree up in the front window of his living room after New Years was either lazy or demented. And if it was still up in February, then definitely out of touch.
Now that I know that the season continues for a while, it is a privilege to be able to contemplate the real “reason for the season.” As mentioned in an earlier blog, the season continues until the Feast of the Presentation in February. In a way, it is great that the commercial season ends because the deeper spiritual part of this feast can take over. I can celebrate without seeking for “stuff” and without so much “busy-ness”. Perhaps take a few minutes to realize what just happened. And the mess on the floor from all of the wrappings and boxes, looks like a mini holocaust.
God never changes, just my perception of Him. My Christmases might have changed over the years and my understanding of them too. But His message is still the same. I have heard a lot of people say, “Christmas just doesn’t seem the same anymore.” What we choose to call the season might change too. But God is the same. The journey definitely continues. We spend a few days by the manger and then the off to play in the New Year. I am enjoying looking at all of the Christmas morning pictures posted by friends and family.
December 26 is actually the Feast Day of the first Martyr of the Christian Church –St. Stephen. He was stoned at the command the of none other than Saul, who is later became known as St. Paul. This story seems to be quite an abrupt ending/beginning right after Christmas Day. The early Church writer Tertullian stated, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” But it stands as a reminder and a foreshadow of what the Church will continue to endure. The little baby in the manger will one day be crucified.
My issue of the Magnificat worship guide today states, “Bethlehem is the prelude to Calvary. We may not merely stand adoring at the crib; we must also follow to the Cross” (Dec 2011 issue, p. 390). We might not know what type of Cross lies ahead. Each one is custom made. This may seem to have a pessimistic tone to it. No one likes the difficult part of the journey. Most of us would like to get off where the party ends. But true growth from a psychospiritual standpoint is being willing to accept the good times as well as the challenges. We can take consolation in the fact that the little baby Jesus goes before us. And we can proceed with joy.