Halfway through this first month, there aren't many signs of Christmas left. Most of the trees have been taken down, the malls are quiet and unadorned, no bells are being rung on street corners, and few houses still turn on their Christmas lights each evening. Another "season of giving" has passed.
I love the flow of the church's liturgical calendar. The yearly walk through the Story draws everything together, ensures we do not pick and choose our favourite focal points. And yet...perhaps, at Christmas especially, we leave too much behind. We pack away Jesus with the nativity, leave our giving spirit on the curb with the tree, and allow generosity to retreat to the back of our mind without the constant holiday reminders. We've tossed a few coins into the Salvation Army buckets, written a cheque to our charity of choice, and sent out cards with our well-wishes to friends and family. We've given our token nod to the birth of Jesus. Too often, that's it for the next ten or eleven months.
Is this really enough for us? An annual burst of generosity, of giving, of well-wishes, of time with family, of celebration of Christ's birth?
What would it look like if we wanted more, if we were to be a Christmas people?
I consider this, wonder what it would mean and what it would lead to, jump from meaning to meaning, deeper and deeper.
Christmas, "Christ's Mass", a celebration of Christ.
Mass, from the Late Latin missa, "dismissal", a dismissal from a church service and an entrance into our mission - a sending out! A celebration of the Eucharist.
Eucharist, from the Greek eukharistia, meaning "gratitude, giving of thanks". The sacrament of Holy Communion.
Finally, Christmas with its modern meaning, watered down to a "season of giving" - noble, yes, but missing the fullness and richness of all it truly is!
In all these ways and more, we can be a Christmas people.
We can be a people who celebrate Christ all year long.
We can be a people who recognized and daily strive to carry out our mission, both as the collective Body of Christ and as individuals in our particular God-given circumstances.
We can be a people who give thanks, as Jesus did.
We can be a people who give generously, caring for the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed year-round.
For which of these should be relegated to a once-yearly celebration? Which of these should not be part of the daily clothes of a Christian? Celebrate the gift of Christ, carry out His mission, give thanks, and consider the needs of others...none of these should be relegated to a mere holiday. If we were to truly be a Christmas people, to truly celebrate Christ and hold firm to all that entails throughout the year, what a joy that would be!
And so I begin, considering ways in which our family can enter into this continual Christ-celebration. Will you join us?
All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around their hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus
Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'
And they call him by 'the Savior'
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus
Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There's a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus