The 12 Days of Christmas
The middle of Christmas usually means some mix of dinner, nap, and football in my anticipation. But that is because I have a poor pagan definition of Christmas. Christmas is not one day, as I have reminded the congregations of several parishes over the last two decades.
Christmas is a twelve day feast that moves from the evening before Christmas Day until the evening of Epiphany on the 6th of January. This is where the Twelve Days of Christmas come from, and, in our liturgical tradition, where we should be headed.
The middle of Christmas, then, is the evening of the 31st of December, which has other names in our secular life, but is the evening before the Feast of Holy Name. Most of us have plans for that night, and mine include my family and some giant trees and hopefully a nap and some football.
Christmas is a season of feasting, something that we can barely stand. Holidays have become burdensome in our culture and though we do celebrate, we seem to dread them in equal measure. This could be that we are poor of imagination or lost in obligations, but I think it is simply that we don’t know how to have a holy day.
We got rid of the weekend break from shopping a generation ago and offered Sundays up to the gods of the malls and convenience. We think of church as one more to-do in the list of weekend activities that we barely get through before the busy week starts back up again.
How do we have a holy day, much less a holy twelve days?
First, rest. I am not making this up. It comes from the Ten Commandments from God the Father. God rested, and so can you. Stop doing stuff for one day. And if you simply must do things, choose to do them quietly, humbly, without too much effort. This is not easy for Americans, particularly those of us alive now. I am still learning how to rest, so we will have to practice together.
Two, worship. Give thanks and praise to God for all you have. This is not easy either in a consumer economy of just get one more thing and you’ll be happy, but it is essential to holiness and happiness. In many places in the Bible we are told to count our blessings. In Sunday School we used to sing a song about it. Literally count your blessings. Write them down and give thanks. Praise God and give him credit for all that you have.
Three, be creative. Do that which will extend beauty and life to yourself and others. Charity and creativity. In this we move from being observers to participants in the creation of God. But again, lightly and with joy.
This will take some practice, like I said. Luckily, we have a few days of Christmas left.