A timely essay from Denny & Claire's
Making the Most of Christmas...
Contrary to popular belief, the season of Christmas is not the period from Thanksgiving through December 25th. That idea comes more from modern advertisers and merchandise salesman – the "only so many shopping days 'til Christmas" folks. No, the true season of Christmas is not the period leading up to Christmas Day but rather the one leading from it! The Twelve Days of Christmas is much more than the title of a terribly redundant song; it suggests the way the Advent of our Lord should be rightly celebrated.
Claire and I believe that Christmas is just too big and beautiful to be contained in one day. We love December and its various anticipations of Christmas, but our real celebration starts rather than ends on December 25th. While so many are weighed down by the post-holiday blues, we're just getting underway! Interested in stretching your Christmas out to its fullest? Here are a few suggestions.
1) The enjoyment of Christmas movies, reading, music, and parties go on apace for Claire and me even after the 25th. This is an extremely helpful example for all those people who complain about how fast Christmas comes and goes. Take it easy! When you utilize the whole season (December and especially the 12 Days of Christmas proper), you'll see you'll have more time for Christmas priorities as well as its most pleasant diversions. Many who adopt this approach find that as they de-emphasize the one-day celebration (with its hectic stress on big dollar presents and big dinner preparations), they are much more able to enjoy family, contemplation, and the other more spiritual elements of Christmas.
2) The nobility of celebrating the entire season of Christmas is that it emphasizes "extending," over "spending." Our gift-giving goes a long way beyond Christmas Morning because we open presents each of the Twelve Days. Imagine how much fun that is! However, since we those years before we began this style of celebration, the costs of have actually gone down, not up. Why? Well, even though we are giving each other more gifts than ever before, we have become more creative and personal in our selection. We might still buy each other a couple of "pricey" gifts, but with a whole 12 Days to cover, we were forced to come up with other ideas. And those other ideas have proven to be delightful ways of coming together in the spirit of Christmas.
For example, now our Christmas gifts often involve performance and personal time. For instance, Claire opens an envelope on the Seventh Day of Christmas which contains a new recipe with a note declaring I'm fixing that particular dish for supper tonight. Or it might be a "day off" from housework, the addresses of three newly discovered websites I know she'll enjoy checking out, or just a promise of a leisurely car ride out in the country. As for my pleasure in gifts, it is centered on inexpensive thinga anyway like used books, used records, and...let's see; did I mention used books and records already? (I'm pretty easy to shop for!) Anyhow, the point is that whether you use twelve days or one day to celebrate Christmas, the gifts that matter most are ones that underscore things like time, creativity, and personal attention more than mere "stuff." For us, the extended approach was very helpful in pursuing the better things
3) Even within the Twelve Days of Christmas, Claire and I have a few special observances, especially St. Stephen's Day (December 26th) and the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28th). Activities for observing the former should certainly include reading the Acts passages relating to Stephen's selection as deacon, his sermon before the Council, and his martyrdom. It could also involve writing a letter or two to missionaries, witnessing to your Faith, or visiting a widow or someone else in need of encouragement. And Holy Innocents Day, of course, has an obvious significance for pro-life activists like us. It is an excellent time for spiritual exercises and public actions that promote the sanctity of life.
4) Another important element of our Christmas season is taking time to consider, pray about, and discuss our New Year's resolutions. Now, I know it's common for certain Christians to be critical of those who make New Year's resolutions. That's unfortunate and I assume it's because these critics believe that making resolutions equals a dependence upon one's own strength rather than God's grace. How wrong an idea. The fact is that making resolutions is quite certainly a biblical practice. Think for a moment about the Scripture's use of exhortational verbs like "reckon," "count it," "establish," "consider," "dedicate," "consecrate," "remember," "put aside," and many more. All refer to the prayerful making (and keeping) of resolutions to live godly. An evaluation of one's entire life is always in order as is a careful plan of action to be more effective as a "doer of the Word." After all, this is a key purpose of the Sabbath rest God instituted. So, why not use the Twelve Days to go deeper than usual in your spiritual analysis so that you can better serve the Savior in the year to come?
5) And finally, all things must come to their completion and the Christmas season is over for us when that Twelfth Night comes around. However, there's one more very important Christmas event for Claire and me...and often for a few of our friends too. That is our celebration of Epiphany on January 6th. Epiphany is the holiday when the manifestation of Jesus is celebrated in much of the world, the day when we remember the visit of the magi as well as the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. It is also the gift-giving "Christmas" for much of the eastern world.
Claire and I use Epiphany as a way to close our Christmas season and we do so with a final Christmas party. Most significantly, we take time with our friends to wrap up the figures from our "main" nativity set, each person sharing a testimony or a prayer relating to each nativity figure. It is always a very moving time of fellowship.
So, there you go – a few ideas from our house to yours about how Christmas can be extended in time ---- and elevated in spirit as well.