So Christmas has come and gone, and as we approach New Year’s, we stuff away all the decorations and get rid of the tree, bidding Christmas farewell. It seems that the holidays have disappeared as quickly as they came, even though they seem to have started right after Halloween in Walmart.
So does this mean that Christmas is finally over? Liturgically speaking, no.
We’ve all heard that classic Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas, and roll our eyes a bit when it comes on because we know it’s going to last forever, but what are the 12 Days of Christmas anyway? Interestingly enough, Christmas has traditionally been a 12 Day celebration on the liturgical calendar.
Advent, which we covered in an earlier post, observes the coming of the Savior and the anticipation for Christmas. Christmas Day, however, ushers us into the second part of the holidays. The liturgical Christmas celebration begins on Christmas Day, commemorating the birth of Jesus, and ends on a day known as Epiphany, which commemorates the discovery of Jesus by the Magi.
It may seem outlandish for our hurried modern culture that Christmas should be stretched beyond a single day, especially when we’re ready for it to be over when surrounded by repetitive Christmas music and horrifically bad Hallmark movies. However, it makes sense for Christmas to go beyond a single day, as the story of the birth of our Lord is so multifaceted in itself. After all, there was more than just a baby in a manger.
Let us not forget days later, when the infant Jesus was brought to Jerusalem to be presented at the Temple and was prophesied over by Simeon, who declared the consolation of Israel in the baby King.
Let us not forget likely two years or so later, when Magi from the east arrived, following a star and then encountering the child with his mother in a house in Bethlehem, where they fell down in worship and offered to him gifts fit for a King: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Let us not forget the warning given to Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt to escape the terror Herod unleashed upon Bethlehem, and then return journey following the death of Herod to Nazareth.
The significance of the Christmas story and season is vast, and as such, why shouldn’t we let it stretch beyond a single day?
On top of that, in considering the depth and importance of the Christmas season, why should we hurry it along? Why should we be so ready to get past it?
Why not let it linger?
I believe that Epiphany, the commemoration of the revealing of Christ the King, invites us to slow down. It invites us to look past our hurried nature and pretense, to see Christ with us, to pause to worship and recognize the sacredness of the time in which we stand.
So perhaps for just a little bit, we let the music play on, we leave the tree up, and we appreciate the remainder of this blessed season.
Blessed Epiphany to you all.