Now that the garbage and recycling have been picked up, only a few remnants of Christmas remain in our house. There’s that one card stuck on the wall still, the decorative fake tree guarding our front door, and a few remaining bites of Margaret’s speculaas cookies in the kitchen. Oh, and lest I forget, the string of lights above the gutter, waiting for a warmer day, when I can pull the ladder out to take them down. With New Year’s resolutions disciplining our bellies and school rhythms regulating our sleep schedules once again, our Christmas celebrations have been done around here for a few days already.
But (you knew there was a but coming, didn’t you?)before we move completely away from Christmas, I want to pause to recognize that today, January 5, is the last day of Christmas. “On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…” Yep, that’s today. Anyone line up a drum circle for their true love tonight? Yeah, me neither.
While the twelve day Christmas practice has a pretty varied history throughout the Christian church, the underlying emphasis is the same across traditions of the church. The twelve days are an extended celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. This church season, often called Christmas tide, stretches from Christmas Day until Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6. In some settings, a Christmas wreath would be hung on the front doors of churches and houses from Christmas Eve through the morning of Epiphany as a way of marking this particular season.
And so today, as we prepare to put away the last remnants of Christmas, I feel prompted to sit for a few moments, here in the middle of the day, simply to remember the angel’s good news: “Today, in the city of David, a Savior is born, who is Christ the Lord,” and then to listen one more time to the other angels singing out “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
As I am returning to my normal routines, maybe the twelfth day of Christmas doesn’t call for the 12 drummers drumming. Maybe it is a bit more subdued and contemplative celebration, quietly looking forward, rather than joyfully reminiscing. As we head into Epiphany, and then on toward Lent, Good Friday, and Easter, I’m reading Luke 2 again. I am blown away by how God loved us so much that he became vulnerable, like us, born in squalor and marginalized. I want to take something of the “lowly” shepherds’ wonder with me – and their enthusiasm to spread the word about Jesus and all that God has done. And like Mary, I would certainly benefit from pondering all these things of Christmas in my heart during the days and weeks ahead. For in Jesus, Christ has come. God is with us. And that is the Christmas miracle that strengthens me for the journey ahead, and deepens my longing for the day in which Christ will come again.
Merry Christmas! May God encourage us all with the good news that Jesus Christ is born.