As I’ve been crafting our Advent series @ Harvest, I’ve been making a few life-altering discoveries about Christmas that on the one-hand, ruin everything – and on the other hand, redeem it completely and make it much more meaningful than it has ever been. Here they are, in numbered order:
FOUR DISCOVERIES ABOUT CHRISTMAS THAT RUIN EVERYTHING:
- The season of Advent runs for 4 weeks – from the first Sunday after Thanksgiving right up to Christmas Eve – 4 Sundays.
- Advent is principally about WAITING – not celebration. So we hold our breath, bated, poised for just two more weeks – trust me, this is excruciating, even for me.
- Christmas is about celebration – so once Dec 25th rolls around, let your hair down, invite some friends over, pop the cork, reunite with loved ones. This is what it’s all about! I call it “practicing reunion.”
- The season of Christmas lasts 12 days – from Dec 25th to January 6th (the start of Epiphany) – hence, (BIG discovery!) the “12 days of Christmas” are not the 12 days leading up to Christmas, but rather, the 12 days after Christmas, encompassing the entire Christmas season.
Now you’re starting to think “OK, this means a few things” Allow me to spell them out:
7 IMPLICATIONS OF THIS NEW UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTMAS:
- No post-Christmas let down! Yay!! Now you’ve got 12 days to party like it’s 1999! Post-partum Christmas depression, good-bye forever.
- The tree comes out Dec 25 (boo). Because that’s what Advent is about. Waiting. This is tough. You may get Charlie Brown’s sad little Christmas tree, but assuredly, it will be the sincerest tree in the whole lot. Or you could do what we are doing (by mistake) – get a tree while they’re still around, but refrain from finishing it and lighting it up until Dec 25th.
- It really is about family. This is tough, and some people hate this aspect of the holidays – the reunion. But that’s precisely what Christmas is practice for; reunion. Reunion with the Lamb, reunion with deceased loved ones, reunion with the entire host. This is the Christian Hope. So as we look forward to the great Marriage-feast, what better way than to practice it for 12 days a year? Consider Christmas a dress rehearsal.
- Christmas is practicing how to celebrate well – as we anticipate the eschatological hope. In some ways I see this as the panacea to our modern, rampant psychological distress; that is to say, we are a sick society because we are constantly, year-round, needing to be stimulated. We’re always on the lookout for a high, beit sugar, visual stimulation, media, entertainment, sex, or the like. The thing is, it’s unnatural to always be high, year-round. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecc 3). But society teaches us that every day should be a happy-giddy day. And that’s probably why we crash, become bipolar, and look for meaning when the entertainment becomes meaningless. That’s why the church calendar gives us 12 days – sufficient, in my view. There is something healthy about portioning the gamut of human emotions per the church calendar.
- That means when Dec 25 rolls around we should really party! – Like it’s 1999. It’s only Christianly.
- But until then we really do have to refrain… from the trees, the decorations, the music, the festivities, the lights? If you want to appreciate the full depth of the Advent season, then yes. But think of it this way: the waiting is also a discipline making us more emotionally healthy. In fact, the whole Christian worldview is one of waiting. We need to really internalize this, once a year. It makes us better eschatological people, yearning for the hope (2 Peter 3). Now it may seem trivial, but holding off on these things is a real discipline, and I think richly rewarding, at that (esp come Dec 25th! You will appreciate the 12 days of Christmas all the more).
- Then I’ll be out of step with the rest of the culture! Who cares, I say. No seriously, I agree with the clayfire blog in stating:
We must provide—for ourselves, our children, and especially our churches—a counter-narrative… I don’t have a problem with the (secular) culture’s version of Christmas. But I think we need to be very clear: as Christians, that is not our season.
So in the end I hope I didn’t rain on your tree too much, and if I did, then you’ll yearn for sunbreak all the more. And I hope this post helps to grasp a deeper meaning of the Christian season of Christ-mass, the 12 days of Christmas. Celebrate well, but first, wait well.