Now that Christmas Day is over many of us feel let down because the day we have been anticipating for so long has passed. The malls strip their elaborate decorations and junk their remaining Christmas stocks with huge 50-70% off sales. Christmas wreaths and trees are thrown out for the garbage collectors and our frenzied activities give way to a low grade depression.
Christmas isn’t really over.
In the sixth century it was decided that celebrating Christmas just for a day didn’t provide time to celebrate all the joy that Christ’s birth brought into the world. They made Christmas into a twelve day festival that ended with a feast on the Eve of Epiphany on January 5th to celebrate the coming of the wise men and the emergence of God’s eternal kingdom.
Yep, that’s right, for those of us who are Christ followers, the 12 days of Christmas begin with Christmas Day they don’t end there as many malls would have us believe. In countries where this understanding of Christmas has not been co-opted by the commercialism of our society Christmas trees are not decorated until Christmas Eve and remain in the house sparking with light and life until the Eve of Epiphany.
What I love about the 12 days of Christmas is that in many ways we have them to ourselves. The consumer culture has discarded the season. We are just beginning to celebrate.[Tweet “The consumer culture has discarded the season. We are just beginning to celebrate.”]
This is the time we can truly celebrate with joy and gratitude the wonder of a God whose love is so great that he sent a much loved son to dwell amongst us. How incredible! How wonderful! Lets take advantage of every day of the Christmas season.
Lets Take Action
Sit down with your family or friends now that Christmas day is over – read the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds in the fields. Imagine it. Christ’s birth was so incredible that even the angels were excited. In fact they were so excited that they could not contain themselves. They had to break into the earthly realm with shouts of joy proclaiming that the promised Messiah had come to live amongst us.
Discuss your reactions to this story and to the whole account of the birth of Christ. When you read through the gospel account how do you feel? What is your earliest memory of Christ appearing to you? Share how you felt at that time and talk about the difference that Christ’s presence has made in your life.
Now ask yourselves:
What most excites you today about the presence of Christ in your life?
How does his presence impact the way you live?
Next, discuss ways that you could share the joy of Christmas with others during the following days. You might like to write down one suggestion for each of the 12 days of Christmas that could extend the joy of the season to others.[Tweet “What most excites you today about the presence of Christ in your life?”]
Here are some suggestions.
- Do you know people that are alone at this season? Take them out for a meal or invite them to go skiing or if you are in the southern hemisphere, swimming with you. Share with them your reasons for continuing to celebrate the joy of Christmas beyond December 25th.
- Do you know people who are disabled? Take them for a drive around your neighborhood to enjoy the Christmas lights.
- Do you have friends, acquaintances or family your rarely speak to? Phone one person each evening during Christmas to share your joy with them.
This is also a great time of the year to think seriously about how you will follow Christ in the coming seasons. Tom and I always go on retreat for a couple of days to refocus. It is a practice I heartily recommend to pastors and congregations alike.
How could you encourage your staff and your congregations to refocus during these post Christmas days. Again here are a few suggestions:
- Encourage people to choose a scripture reading plan for the coming year. How will your grow your knowledge of God and your commitment to the purposes of God? You might like to check out the resources offered in this post to help with this.
- How will you encourage your people to form stronger community bonds in this coming years. Is this a good time to talk about small groups or weekly home gatherings?
- Think about ways to encourage a discipline of service. What will you and your church commit to that will bring the spirit of Christmas to those at the margins in the coming year?
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