In most retail stores right now, Christmas is a memory. The decorations are coming down, and the merchandise has been moved to clearance to make room for Valentine’s Day “stuff”. For most of the rest of us, this week occupies a sort of in-between period where Christmas is over, but we still keep the lights and decorations around until New Years. Would it surprise you to learn, then, that we’re actually only about halfway through the Christmas season right now?
It’s true! You’re probably familiar with the Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. The title refers to the traditional Christian year, in which Christmas is a twelve-day celebration, beginning with Christmas Day on December 25, and lasting until Epiphany on January 6 (the traditional day for remembering the wise men visiting Jesus-they were a bit late for His birth). One of my personal holiday pet-peeves in recent years has been the number of TV stations, magazines, and other media or retail outlets that advertise “12 Days of Christmas Sales” or “12 Days of Christmas Countdowns” starting in mid-December- moving on once Christmas actually arrives.
I do understand the reasoning-it’s only good marketing. Christmas sales and advertisements go over much better in mid-December (when we’re looking for Christmas gifts) than they do the first week of January. But that’s just the problem. Our culture co-opts one of the most significant Christian holidays of the year to dump an ad-blitz on us that we don’t need, only to drop it once the holiday actually gets here, and push us on to the next gimmick. As Christians, we know that the Christmas season is more than a sales gimmick or a tradition or even a chance to see some elements of our faith publicly displayed. Christmas should be, for us, a pause in our year to remember, and celebrate, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s such a big deal, that one day isn’t enough! Really, twelve days isn’t either, but holidays can only last so long.
At Christmas, the Bible tells us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). It’s the profound truth, and really difficult to wrap the mind around (at least for me), that God became human and came to His creation. Christ came to live among us not just for a day or season, but for thirty years on earth, and eternity in heaven as both fully God and fully human. He did this to rescue us from ourselves-from the sin that traps and enslaves us- to free us for a life with Him and for Him, now and forever. He joined us, so we could join Him (Jn. 1:12).
For many of us, by accident or design, this week is usually not quite as crowded as the pre-Christmas rush, and we haven’t yet gotten back into our ‘normal’ routine yet. I invite you this year to take advantage of that. Join me in taking a moment to read through the Bible’s record of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, and John 1). Use these twelve days of Christmas to prepare, because when God enters the world, He calls us to follow after Him, and there’s work to be done for His Kingdom. But it begins at the manger, taking a moment to realize the profound implication of what God has done in the person of Jesus- “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”- God joined our world, so we could join Him.