Why do we celebrate for twelve days? It’s not to get more gifts! Although it does give us a chance to shop the after Christmas sales and turn them into gifts under the tree as well, or gifts for friends and family with whom we are meeting up after Christmas day.
The game changer (an idiom I learned from my writing students) came when I had a baby, 14 or so years ago. Ten months (11 years) of waiting, and then the baby came! I was astonished to receive for her one present a day for a month. Some came with friends bringing dinner, other days with the mailman. Literally, one a day for a month. How could that not have been God orchestrating? The celebrating wasn’t over in a day. Why then should I celebrate the birth of Jesus for only one day? Prepare for 24 days and then celebrate for only one?
Sit with it. Or maybe I should say, roll with it (another idiom). That first month the baby and I sat on the old blue couch, nursing, sleeping on Mommy, bonding. The time of intense inactivity grew my heart for the child. The time of keeping Christmas after the 25th also grows my heart. The presents I give, the meetings with friends, the joy shared because of the love of God all somehow grow stronger as the shopping world moves on but the grace of time extends. (This year it was a much needed grace, for our college semester didn’t end until Monday 12/29 when the grades were due at noon.)
Embrace the future in light of Christmas. Is it an accident that New Years Day comes in the middle of the 12 days of Christmas, still rising to Twelfth Night and Epiphany? I held my baby and we thought of how our life would change: of the things we would want to do together, show her, take her to see things and meet people. New Year resolutions, or better yet, One Word seeking (where you pray for God to give you one word to focus on for the coming year, like Yes, or Grace, or Love) should be done with the Baby and all His life before you in mind. Hold him, hold on to him, and ponder.
This year what struck me in the Christmas story as we played it out in our tiny congregation Christmas Eve and then at the Rescue Mission on Chrismas night and then as I watched The Nativity movie with Ravinia on Christmas day 2, was how God directed each person to do their part. They didn’t know the whole story, but when they met each other, they recognized something. Elizabeth somehow knew from Mary’s greeting, and told her what she knew. Joseph trusted an angel in a dream, two or three times! Shepherds recognized the child, and told the parents what angels had said. Simeon, and Anna, in the temple, rejoiced and spoke. Magi read God’s stars and came to acknowledge him. All of them were trusting God, not men. All were able to say, this is what I know from God.
But Herod, with evil intent, found out from scripture the name of Bethlehem. Herod didn’t trust God, so he acted terribly, ordering the death of many so as to appease his sinful fear. But God still directed those who listened to him. The magi returned home a different way (they dreamed of angels and believed them too!), Joseph woke in the night and took Mary and her son away. Were there others in Bethlehem who dreamed of angels also that night? Were there some who heard the passing angel and also took warning? Or did they all awake to forget their dreams, live their usual morning until they heard the soldiers come?
My child is now 14. Jesus is at the Father’s right hand, waiting to be sent again to earth in glory. But still I hold the child in my heart and still I hope for grace. Still I lean in to a new year in the midst of these twelve days of rejoicing and I pray for growth in me, for guidance from God, for his will to be done in our lives for our joy and his glory.
All thanks and praise to God!