All the preparation and anticipation, and just like that-it's over. The Church understood as sometimes we do not that Christmas is too big to try to squeeze into a single day. So the season of Advent is a four week long time of soul-searching and looking towards the coming of Christ. Strange to our minds, the focus is not on the birth of Christ, but on his second coming to redeem the world. The Scripture lessons for Advent tend to come from Isaiah and the Revelation of St. John as they look forward to that time when that which is wrong about this world is made right again.
Even that isn't enough. For we moderns, Advent has given way to a secular Christmas, that commercial build up that now starts in October or even September. It wasn't too long ago that we had to get through Thanksgiving before we started seeing Christmas programs and commercials on TV. But with all the build up to Christmas, it's suddenly here and gone. Again, the Church knew something we've forgotten, or perhaps never really understood in the first place. With all the commercial build up to Christmas, a strictly secular holiday isn't able to support the weight we assign to it. In the Christian calendar however, Christmas Day is the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas, culminating in Epiphany on January 6. Nearly two weeks is given to the celebration of the Light of Christ coming into the world. Christmas isn't ephemeral; it is given time to unfold, which gives us time to reflect on what it is really all about.
In our home, the wrappings have been torn off and cast aside, the gifts opened and acknowledged. We grazed all morning long from a table groaning beneath the weight of Linda's Mexican Bean Dip, egg and bread loaf, cheeses, sausages, candies and cookies, but by mid afternoon, the kids have all departed while we cleaned up and set up the new bed. At 6:00, Christmas for us becomes Abi's birthday, so over we go to her house for another round of celebration. Another American Christmas has come and gone, and it is now time for us to truly celebrate Christmastide by reflecting upon the Gift of Christ, how he came to this dark world in humility, and how he continues to invade our darkness by entering our lives with the light of the message that his Kingdom is at hand. All that sounds quite religiously trite, but the reality is that God hasn't yet dealt with this world in power and majesty. Instead, he is "longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9). It is that patience that gives us hope. He isn't done with us. Christmas was the beginning; the Light has come, and we have this season to remember, and to proclaim the Good News of salvation, deliverance, peace, joy, and hope. The Light has come, and the Darkness cannot overcome it! Merry Christmas!