The sign in front of our local drug store read "Christmas 1/2 off." Momentarily, I wondered had happened to the other half. John suggested it might have flown away with Rudolph. We laughed, but the question lingered.
This day, Dec. 27th, is the Third Day of Christmas and, no, Virginia, Christmas is not halfway over-- we are just beginning. More and more, it seems that the idea of Christmas as a Season of Twelve Days is dwindling and giving way to the Two Christmas Scenario .
The first could be called the Cultural/commercial Christmas which features Santa, the elves, non-religious Christmas music, Holiday programs, and much buying and selling of gifts. The second could be called a Christ-centered or Christian Christmas and focuses on Christmas as the Birth of Christ - Jesus being the reason for the season.
Cultural Christmas starts gearing up somewhere around Halloween and, in some quarters, the beginning of October. Decorations appear, music starts, and people are put in mind of the necessity to BUY presents for those for whom they care. On Dec. 26th, Christmas trees are out in the street, the Christmas music and decorations are gone and people are pressing on to the next celebration - New Year's Eve and Day. Also, "Christmas 1/2 off" notices promptly appear.
Anticipation of the Christ-Centered Christmas begins in Advent - usually the last Sunday in November or the first in December. Four Sundays are marked and, in our readings, we encounter some of the Advent people: The prophets - Isaiah and John the Baptist; St. Nicholas of Myra (Dec. 6th); St. Joseph and St. Mary. The themes of Advent are reflection, quiet anticipation and spiritual "house-cleaning" in anticipation of the coming of the King - not only as a newborn in Bethlehem but as the Great Judge at the end of time.
One way of staying focused on a Christ-Centered Christmas is to keep the Twelve Days. Below are some suggestions. May you be blessed in Keeping Christmas this year.
Keeping the Twelve Days of Christmas
How strange and hopeful it is to cry NOEL in the heart of the winter darkness. “So we banish the long nights with firelight and candles. We defy the winter by festooning summer’s green from our rafters. We spread our tables with the abundance of the harvest, all signs of God’s graciousness, signs of the bounty of heaven itself. We gather around the sparkling tree of life and declare this place, no matter how humble, to be paradise. We celebrate a birth, not a birthday. Christmas is not Jesus’ birthday, It is not an anniversary of something that happened long ago. Christmas is the celebration of Christ, now, hodie, today. The word for “today” is a key for entering into the mystery of Christmastide, for if Christ is born today that mean we can see and touch and hold Christ. It also means we must feed and clothe and protect Christ, now, hodie, today.
One of the hallmarks of genuine Christian celebration is this combination of tremendous comfort and joy with tremendous challenge. No wonder it takes so many days to keep Christmastide! And no wonder we keep Christmastide by renewing our efforts to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, and to bring together neighbors and strangers alike to share in the feast of Christ. Today Christ is born. NOEL! Hodie Christus natus est. Noel! “
The Twelve Day of Christmas are a great time for continuing the celebration. Try saving some gifts for these days. Keep your decorations up. Play and sing Christmas carols. Invite friends over for Christmas cookies. Be counter-cultural. Celebrate with gusto!
Dec. 25 - The First Day - Today Christ is Born!
Dec. 26 – St. Stephen, deacon and first martyr. Take food to a shelter. Help the poor in some concrete way today.
Dec. 27 – St. John, apostle and evangelist. Celebrate God’s love. “Love one another” was John’s constant sermon. Toast those named John or Joanna.
Dec. 28- Holy Innocents. Turn off Christmas lights for today and remember Herod’s innocent victims as well as all innocent victims in our own time.
Dec. 29 – The Prince of Peace. Pray for peace today. Mend a quarrel or write a letter to elected officials.
Dec. 30 – Anna and Simeon – These were two senior citizens who welcomed the baby Jesus to the
. Visit or phone some older people in your life
Dec. 31 – Sylvester, 4th c. saint. New Year’s Eve. Sometimes known as “Father Time”. Have a party, blow horns, tell some favorite stories.
Jan 1. – The Holy Name of Jesus. Eight days after Jesus was born, his parents named him. Meditate today on the many names of Jesus Christ.
Jan.2 – Basil and Gregory – 4th c. bishops and teachers. Remember to move your kings closer today.
Jan. 3 – Praise to God! Listen to Handel’s Messiah!
Jan. 4- Elizabeth Ann Seton – was a teacher who started one of the first Sunday School in the
. On this day give thanks for our teachers –
past and present. US
Jan 5 – The Twelfth Day -- God is love! Give hugs to all today! (Twelfth Night Parties!)
Jan 6- The Feast of the Epiphany – This word means “to show forth” or revelation. Celebrate the many ways Jesus is revealed – to the Magi, to us. The star is the great symbol of Epiphany so do some star gazing tonight while wearing a crown.
May you have a Holy Christmastide!