I want to scream it! CHRISTMAS ISN'T OVER!!! I don't. I remain calm and know that my tree will stay up until Epiphany.
A decorated tree clutters my living room. My life feels a little out of whack. The manger scene is taking up valuable space and the Christmas lights are starting to get on my nerves. I would like to "get my house back" but it is still Christmas. Not to mention, I have several children who will already be heartbroken on January 6th ... or 7th, 8th, 9th... when I finally take down the decorations.
So, my decorations remain - and I'm making the effort to make sure the Christmas spirit remains for a little while longer, too. It is, after all, still Christmas!
You see, Christmas BEGINS on December 25th (or if you want to fudge a little, Christmas Eve). In my home, on Christmas Eve, the Advent decorations are joined by the Christmas decorations - the tree goes up, the decorations come out of their boxes, and the lights are hung. "Advent?" you may ask. Yes, the period of time when our hearts are preparing for the birth of Christ. "But I thought Christmas begins at Thanksgiving - or the day after." Nope! That's when everyone thinks - and the retailers want you to believe - Christmas begins, but it doesn't. I mean, think about the word: Christmas. What's the first syllable? Christ. And the second syllable? Mas. You can't have a mass for Christ without his birth, and that's what Christmas is. It is a celebration (a Mass) of Christ's birth. That time after Thanksgiving (roughly speaking) and before Christmas is Advent. Say it with me... A d v e n t.
Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas. That day my Advent decorations go up. There aren't many - an Advent calendar, an Advent wreath with its candles and greenery, the manger...but without baby Jesus (he hasn't been born yet...remember... Christmas?). That's all. Compared to my neighbor's homes, it looks like we aren't even celebrating Christmas at that time. Guess why? It's because we're not! We are celebrating... A d v e n t.
It's after Christmas Day now. No, my tree didn't go down on the 26th, nor will it go down on January 1. Why? It is still Christmas then.
There are Twelve Days of Christmas! (There's a song about it, you know.) TWELVE. After, not before, Christmas! They begin on December 25, last until Twelfth Night, and then the next day is Epiphany. (Some celebrate Twelfth Night the night of Epiphany.) "Wait! What is this Epiphany stuff?" Oh, come on! You know what an epiphany is; it's when you have a sudden realization. The light comes on. The shoe drops. Something finally hits you. Well, the Wise Men aren't standing at that manger on Christmas Day... or before Christmas Day for that matter. It takes them a while to make their journeys from their respective realms to witness that the King of Kings has been born. Once they get to their destination, thanks to the star, they see for themselves that the Son of God has arrived. While they are bestowing their gifts on the precious babe, internally, they are saying, "A-ha!" That, my friends, is an epiphany. January 6th is the day we celebrate the Epiphany - when the world knew that Christ was born.
On January 6th, we know Christ was born and we can pack away our Christmas niceties. So, this year, leave your decorations up for just a few more days...keep the Christmas spirit and the joy of Christ's birth in your home for a little while longer. And next year, wait... revel in the joy of a child who will be born soon. The anticipation is something wonderful!
...Besides, you already know it's going to be a boy!