Here's a copy of my column for the local paper that will come out today. Happy reading and have a very merry Christmas - all 12 days of it.
Soon the decorations will be put away. We’ll drive down the streets and see just white street lights. No colored lights, no decorated trees. Inside our homes snow globes and poinsettias, Christmas trees and ornaments, will all disappear. We’ve spent weeks getting ready, and on December 26^th we’ll start getting ready to take it all down. It wasn’t always that way, though. In the traditional Christian calendar a holiday or festival day is the beginning of a season, not the end. Easter marks the beginning of the 50 Days of Easter, ending on Pentecost. In the same way, Christmas Day is not the end of the Christmas season. It’s the beginning. Just like the song says, traditionally there are 12 days of Christmas, from December 25^th until January 6^th , the day of Epiphany when, depending on your tradition, Christians celebrate either the 3 Wise Men arrives to see Jesus or the Baptism of Jesus. Our society moves so quickly. One holiday ends and we’re ready for the next one to begin. We often suggest that we should try to keep the “Christmas Spirit” alive 365 days a year, but we don’t get very many suggestions for how we can remember to do that. Perhaps one suggestion could be simply that this year we slow down a little. Let’s wait to put the decorations away for 12 days, until the end of the traditional Christmas season. Let’s spend 12 extra days focusing on what we’ve been preparing for these last several weeks. Put away one or two decorations each day giving thanks for the person who gave it to you. Light a candle each day and say a prayer of thanksgiving for one reason you are grateful to God for Christmas and for Christ. Do a “random act of kindness” each of the twelve days. Keep playing your Christmas music (preferably music with more references to shepherds and wise men than reindeer and sleighs). Maybe most of us can’t spend the whole year in the “Christmas spirit” even though we know we should. If that’s you, let’s start simple. Try just twelve days and see how it goes. Maybe we’ll come away inspired to turn the twelve days into twelve months and we will truly celebrate the miracle of the baby born in Bethlehem the whole year long as God intends for us to do.