To our modern, secular society, Christmas is over. People put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, go to Christmas parties well before December 25th, focus only on presents on the day itself, and then put the tree away on December 26th. “Well, Christmas is over ’til next year,” they say with a sigh of resignation. The frantic rushing around to stores for last-minute gifts or the last-minute bottle of wine; the late-night shopping; the squabbles on Christmas Day because an older sibling got the $600 Ipad that the 11-year-old wanted…they only happen once a year. If that’s all Christmas is about, then it’s a relief for it to be over.
Contrary to popular belief, Christmas begins on December 25th, and it isn’t over yet. As Catholics, we prepare for Christmas with a season of prayer and penance, making our hearts ready to receive Our Baby King; and then we have twelve days to celebrate it liturgically. First, there’s the octave, ending on January 1, with the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, the Circumcision, and the Octave of the Epiphany. For five more days, we celebrate the ”Twelve Days of Christmas.” (For a good explanation of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas, see this article, The Real Meaning of “The Twelve Days of Christmas; thanks to my friend Rebecca’s blog over at Our Hearts are Restless for sharing this article.)
Now, I must confess that I’m feeling rather hypocritical writing this post; I’m afraid that, to an extent, I’ve allowed the modern secular attitude toward Christmas to seep into my soul. Yet, I was saddened by the sighs of relief that “Christmas is over”; the eagerness to put away the Christmas decorations; the frustration at neighbors who still had their lights up a mere four days after Christmas; the completely secularized treatment of Christmas that I encountered.
Is that a reason for despair? Should we resign ourselves to the fact that we live in a pluralized society, than even nominal Christians don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas? Of course we shouldn’t!
Celebrate! Keep those Christmas lights and that tree up! (Be sure to water the tree…you don’t want the neighbors to say your excessive celebration of Christmas made the tree dry out and caused that fire.) Listen to that Christmas music! Sing those Christmas songs while you’re walking the dog, even if your neighbors look at you as if you have grown two heads! And pray.
Now, I could have been more focused during Advent, I could have prepared a lot better for the Birth of the Baby; but that doesn’t mean I should skimp on celebrating His Birth now that it’s Christmas. Fulton Sheen writes in Life of Christ: “No worldly mind would ever have suspected that He . . . from whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that were not long enough to touch the huge heads of the cattle” (28).
That Baby lying in that manger is God. He entrusted Himself (put Himself in the care of) His own creatures: little, weak human beings that He had created. And in response, He’s asking us to trust ourselves–little, weak, sinful that we are–in His hands. Those hands, too tiny to wrap themselves around you, are the hands that made you out of nothing. Those hands made me out of nothing. And He wants us to put ourselves in those hands, to trust Him that He’s going to help us get through whatever struggles we might be facing now, to trust that He’s not going to drop us, He’s not going to let us drown.
So, as you prepare for Sunday’s Feast of the Epiphany and its Octave with the Feast of the Baptism, keep the faith! Stay focused on that Baby in the manger. Trust Him (I have to tell myself that at least 10 times an hour, every hour, every day), and remember that Christmas is not over!
God Love you! (And, “God bless us every one!”)