Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Trust Me, 12 Days of Christmas are Better than One

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 the holiday; it's the period leading from it! 

It is Claire's and my conviction that Christmas is just too big and beautiful to be contained in one day. So though we love December and its many and various anticipations of Christmas, our real celebration starts (not ends) on December 25th.  While so many are weighed down by the post-holiday blues, we're just getting underway!

Are you 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 after the 25th.  This is an extremely helpful thing for all of you who complain about how fast Christmas comes and goes.  Hey, take it easy.  Stretch things out a bit and be cool. When you utilize the whole season (December and especially the 12 Days of Christmas proper), you'll see you'll have time for Christmas priorities as well as the holiday's pleasant diversions.

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!  Yet the costs of our Christmases these last couple of decades have gone way down, not up. For we have become more creative and much more personal in our selection. For instance, Claire opens an envelope on, say, the Seventh Day of Christmas and inside she finds a recipe with a note declaring I'm fixing that 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. 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." And for us, an 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 together our New Year's resolutions.  I know some Christians are critical of the practice of making New Year's resolutions.  And I assume it's because these critics think resolutions reflect more reliance upon one's own willpower than upon God's grace to effect change in one's life.  I strongly disagree. Making resolutions should be an ongoing feature of a Christian's lifestyle. Think for a moment about the Scripture's use of exhortational verbs like "dedicate," "reckon," "count it," "establish," "consider," "purpose," "consecrate," "prove," "remember," "put aside," and many more. All refer to the prayerful making (and keeping!) of resolutions to live godly. So, why not use the Twelve Days to go deeper than usual in one's spiritual analysis in order to better serve the Savior in the year to come?

5) And finally, we recognize that all things must come to their completion and the Christmas season is over for us when that Twelfth Night finally comes round. However, there's one more very important Christmas event for Claire and me -- 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. We do so with a final Christmas party.  We have dinner and meaningful conversation with a select group of friends. But we end the evening by having our friends help us wrap up the figures of our oldest nativity set, each person sharing a testimony or a prayer relating to each character. It is always an inspiring ritual.

So, there's a few ideas from our home to yours about how you can avoid the post-Christmas blues. Indeed, we believe that as Christmas is extended in time, it is made better -- more relaxed, more properly focused and more effective as a witness to the world. Why not give it a try?