Sacred Days and Holy Nights

Yesterday was the final day of Christmas (today is *Epiphany!)…

Christmas afternoon 2014

Our tribe on the first day of Christmas, December 25, 2014

I bet most of you have long since packed the ornaments away and vacuumed up the needles of the tree. You have probably moved on to making resolutions, starting a diet and setting personal and professional goals. You have purchased the newest organizational containers, a fresh planner and have thrown out the remaining candy from Christmas stockings by now.

But what, I wonder, is our hurry? Why do we so willingly follow merchant’s schedules for when to begin Christmas, and when to be rid of it? As believers, we are often miffed that we hear “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and we send cards saying “Jesus is the reason for the season,” yet we fall right into line with the most secular of thinkers on the exact perimeters of celebration. 

First Thanksgiving, then Black Friday for frenzied shopping: decorate, bake, wrap, shop some more. There are parties and programs and quick-holiday-themed worship services to attend. Then the relatives show up and we all enjoy too much food and revelry together and by the time the gifts are unwrapped and paper is strewn about, we are ready for it to. be. over.

Jesus was most assuredly NOT the reason for a season that looks like that.

But like every other pooped-out celebrant, Christ-following-believer or not, we immediately start putting our joy-to-the-world away and clearing all signs of festivity, usually because we just can’t stand another second of this go-tell-it-on-the-mountain season of decking-the-halls.

By 8:37 pm on December 25th (technically the first day of Christmas) the over-buying, the round-the-clock shopping hours so kindly provided by “caring” retailers, the extreme-indulgence in “making merry,”  it’s all just too much. We’re ready to pack every vestige of the season away (after hitting a few clearance sales for next year’s celebrating, of course), and then it’s off to the future. We emerge from Christmas absolutely unchanged by the observation of the birth of the Savior of the world. We limp from Christmas day relieved to have it over instead of filled with renewed devotion, knowing Jesus more.

Why on earth we spend all year looking forward to something that wears us plumb out, I am not sure. We are excellent at romanticizing our traditions and must-dos, even if they will eventually suck the life right out of us.

Oh how utterly conventional, how completely secular we have really become. Is a casual reading of Luke 2 on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning really enough to call what we just did a celebration of the Christ?

epiphany

What if we added 12 devotion-and-worship-filled days to Christmas and topped it off with an *Epiphany?

What if we celebrated, I mean really observed and worshiped through Christmas in the liturgical-church-calendar way, all the way through Epiphany? I am not from high-church tradition at all. We didn’t observe religious customs or days in my Pentecostal upbringing (often eschewing them as mere “traditions of men”), but I have realized through the years that there are parts of my faith still so unexplored, holy things I have yet to comprehend, though other church traditions have been careful to recognize and make way for their understanding through a careful liturgy.

The less days I have, the more willing I am to give more of them annually to find Jesus, to know Him, to press in to know Him.

“So let us know Him, let us press on to know the Lord.”  Hosea 6.3

What if we could become whole and healed by setting aside time, consecrating days on the calendar, sanctifying a season for deeper reflection, time to rest, time to heal, time to focus on the Light of the World?  What if, instead of letting Target and WalMart determine our celebrations, we let Christmas, as I-have-decided-to-follow-Jesus types, really begin on the 25th and we spend the days until Epiphany seeking Him like the Wise Men did, following that bright light of mercy in our darkest nights?

What if we pondered the things of Jesus and held them in our hearts like Mary, who, while carrying the Him within gave us one of the richest examples of worship (Luke 1:46-56) in the scriptures? Or what if, on some day after the retail madness has died down, we become filled with the Holy Spirit, like Zacharias, and prophesy the goodness of God to a world who needs to know Him, the One who so loves them?

“Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”   Luke 1.68-69

We often end the story on Christmas day with a babe in manager, but what if were like Simeon, so longing to see Him, led by the Holy Spirit to witness an 8-day old baby – he just blessed God. He saw the babe and his heart found total fulfillment and utter peace, complete satisfaction. He said to God, “Your servant can now die in peace!” Now that is a full heart!

And what about the very old Anna, a prophet who never left the temple, but ministered to the Lord there day and night with prayers and fasting? Thanksgiving to God poured from her as she came up to find Jesus there with His parents. Is the gratitude flowing from us?

What if we marked the days off on the calendar and decided to find Him again, perhaps having drifted off course during the busy year? What if we used the sacred days and holy nights, all now made holy by His coming, to know Him, pursue Him, and meditate on His goodness? Would He honor that? Would He show up to meet with us there?

I usually post a flurry of blogs during Advent and the Christmas season {you can find these by clicking on the “Keep Christmas” topic at the bottom of the page}. I believe there should be no more devoted celebrant than those of us who have received His salvation. I love it all, the sights, the sounds, the symbols of Christmas. I believe Advent holds much treasure we are often too busy to observe. But I have only recently begun to wonder what we miss by not REALLY making Jesus the reason? What of these days between Christmas Day and Epiphany?

Let’s not be so quick to move on. There is more than the hustle, so much more than the bustle. Next year, for sure, the lights will stay in place, the symbols of my faith represented in the decorations and the tree that represents everlasting life  because of the tree Jesus hung on will stay put. Until I emerge a little more like Him, having spent the time seeking Him and keeping on until I really find Him. That is how to “keep Christmas well,” I think. That’s what I am after!

“he knew how to keep Christmas well” ~ Dickens

How do you keep Christmas? How do you celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, spiritually? I would welcome your ideas as I think about Christmas future. SEND INSPIRATION!

sig keep christmas

Oh and…

I did just get this for my Kindle today. Can’t wait to explore it and use it next year with my grandkids! Be sure to read her post on “The Essence of Epiphany” and the first commenter, who had some awesome thoughts about  the Wise Men’s journey). Good stuff!

lindseybridges.com

Experiencing Epiphany – 6 Days of Intentional Epiphany with Your Kids by Lindsey Bridges

*epiphany: The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (see Matthew 2.1-12); the festival commemorating the Wise Men arriving to find Jesus, celebrated on January 6th;  the striking appearance or manifestation of a divine being.

 

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