Today is December 28, the fourth day of Christmas. That’s right. Not the fourth day after Christmas. The fourth day of Christmas. My children know this because I talk about it with them every year. The tree is still up. I’m still playing Christmas carols around the house. And we are definitely still feasting.
But even with all of this, I sometimes a struggle to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas very well. I know that we should. And we try. We really do. But, as much as I try to be in the world yet not of the world, when it comes to the biggest holiday of the year, it’s hard to fight mainstream thinking. It’s hard stay in Christmas mode when our culture has,literally and figuratively speaking, kicked the Christmas tree to the curb. Part of the problem is that we have lost site of some important truths about Christmas. So, like I do when something is bothering me, I think I’ll just make a list. Here is what I think we (I) need to remember about Christmas:
- Christmas did not begin the day after Thanksgiving. The weeks before Christmas, beginning the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, are not the Christmas season, they are the season of Advent – a time of prayerful preparation for the coming of the Lord. Make no mistake. Despite the fact that the Best Buy sales clerk won’t say Merry Christmas, there is no war on Christmas. The war is on Advent, and the merchants are winning. If we are convinced that the sign of Christmas spirit is how our shopping experience plays out, they’ve already won.
- Santa Claus is real. His real name is Saint Nicholas. In his time he gave people generous gifts, and we continue to be his helpers as a way of celebrating the ultimate gift of our Savior. Oh! And he also once punched a heretic in the face.
- Christmas is not all about the presents, but it is a little about the presents. A lot of Christians complain because Christmas has become too commercial. And there is a lot of truth to that. But we give gifts to one another out of love. A well-thought out gift doesn’t isn’t just a token. It’s a way of saying, “I get you. I know you and I knew you’d like this.” Or. “I want you to be pleased and since I didn’t know what to buy you, here’s a gift card.” Either way, giving gift giving isn’t opposed the to Christmas spirit. It is a part of the Christmas spirit. Sometimes in our over-merchandised culture, Christmas presents get a bad wrap (pun intended). But they are an important part of celebrating the season. God gave us this gift of His Son because He loves us. We give each other new sweaters, bathrobes, and toys for the same reason.
- Christmas lasts for 12 Days, but the joy of Christmas lasts forever. As I’ve said, I think it’s important to try to honor Christmas as a season. God becoming a man certainly deserves an extended celebration. The birth of Jesus is cause for tremendous joy, and joy is expressed through feasting, singing, fellowship, and gift-giving. But some time amidst all the Christmas revelry, it is important to stop and do as Mary did and ponder these things. God became a man so that we could know God. It’s an incredible mystery. As Scott Hahn put it in his book Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and still does)
No human could have invented the triune God…No human mind could have conceived of a God who is love and who loves us as if we were Gods. No human mind, unaided by angels, could have dreamt up Christmas.
From my family to yours, Charming Readers, Merry Christmas!