We've done it! We've done it again! We have celebrated Christmas. The frantic last minute rush is over. Bright, bow-decked packages have disappeared from under the tree, and a rainbow of crumpled paper spills out of the garbage can. Bows and bags, saved each year, have been carefully placed in my Advent box - the pre-Christmas box I use to help me remember what comes out first. As I close up this box and get ready to put it back in the attic, I start to recall that it wasn't very long ago that the presents were wrapped so nicely, stacked on my extra bed. They are all a part of the love and excitement that will follow from the spirit of giving, the Christmas spirit in my house. I'm so anxious to clean it all up, but maybe it's a little early to do that - January 4th. I start to feel a little guilty, since I just put baby Jesus in the manger not long ago.
Christmas, rightly called a festival of good will: "Good will towards men" literally from the Greek, means, 'God's peace in/amongst/on men' who are being good to one another. It is right for us even on and especially during these days after Christmas Day, to sing carols and hymns about goodness, tenderness, warmth and love. Words like:
"Comfort, comfort my people. Tell of peace so says our God; comfort those who sit in darkness.
Hark the glad sound the Savior comes; let every heart prepare a throne, let every voice a song.
What child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping; joy, joy for Christ is born; Yea
Lord we greet thee, born this happy morning. True faith and love to us impart, that we may hold you in our heart."
My thoughts continue. I start to think and wonder about the preparations for making Christmas a memorable event - the sounds, sights and smells of the homemade gifts (thanks, Pinterest!); the traditional foods of plum pudding and white sauce, French
pork pie, mince meat tarts, saffron, cardamom and cranberry breads, cookies, and having my friends over for a Christmas tea. The candles and lights, decorations from my childhood, and hand-made by my children and grandchildren, friends and family; my two hand-made nativity sets, and we couldn't leave out the wonderful, beautiful music by the choirs, and from my old 33-speed albums and cassettes that are all part of making my home into a Christmas celebration.
The shepherds heard and saw something special too - they heard and saw the angels. They saw the star which led them to the Christ child. They saw the baby. They were privileged to be part of that first Christmas. What joy must have filled their hearts!
You may have had that experience of seeing a new baby for the first time. It's something you don't forget. How awesome it was to look into the eyes of my youngest daughter's first born child just four months ago. And to hear his first cry. Then comes the excitement that we want to share with everyone every where. We don't want to stop announcing to the world that there is a new baby. I have tried to imagine what it felt like to know that this child you hold in your arms is the Messiah, the Savior of the world that God has promised! It is unimaginable, unbelievable that this could be so; and yet Mary takes all these things and ponders them in her heart.
Eventually the shepherds return to their fields to tend to their flocks. They did not return in sadness and dejection because this great event was over. They were not begrudging the routine of their daily (nightly) work. They returned glorifying and praising God.
Now as I continue to pack more decorations, I recall saying that I was glad to get things back in order. But am I packing away the generous spirit I had when I worked so diligently on these on the special gifts? Will my care for others and interest in their needs, like being alone or going without, be put back in the cold attic until next year? Will I still continue to share my life with the same generosity and warmth that I did when the Christmas gifts were given?"
Next comes sorting through my Christmas cards, entering new addresses in my book, and displaying family pictures received as part of the greetings. Do you ever think about the words of your Christmas cards in February? Do you remember the Christmas message in May or in August? Isn't that what we wish for people, that the spirit of Christmas last throughout the new year? I know of a pastor and his family who keep the cards out, and use them one by one to pray for as part of their daily devotions.
It is not the words in the Christmas card though, but the message of God's love that makes Christmas. If this Christmas message is missing, no matter how much abundance we have or the amount of things we've received, it isn't Christmas. Remember that we do not maintain the Christmas tradition, the message does.
Once again this year, Christmas is past for us, and we too must return to our job, or school, or housework, or childcare or home schooling, and spread good will to others. How do we do that? Do we drag our feet, with a sense of dread and sadness because we have to get back to the old routine? or do are we able to return with a renewed joy and vigor because once again, we have been reminded of God's great love and great gift to us? Is it possible for us to show God's peace and love to others in the new year?
On the front page of our newspaper today, January 4, 2013, a request for help from the Salvation Army for $10,000 which is the amount their annual Christmas campaign lacked. God is truly giving us an opportunity to put our hands where our hearts are. I am challenging myself to make note of how I am "keeping the spirit of Christmas throughout the new year"in 2013. I encourage you to do the same.
Lord, let us not wrap, stack, box, bag, tie, tag, bundle, seal, KEEP Christmas.
Christmas kept is liable to mold.
Let us share, dance, LIVE Christmas unpretentiously, merrily, responsibly, with overflowing hands,
tireless steps, and sparkling eyes.
Christmas given away will stay fresh - even until it comes....again....and again.....and again.
- Linda Felver Alive Now!
This is what our post-Christmas celebration is all about!
Help us to nourish the loving spirit that you have shared with us this Christmas season, so by putting our hands where our hearts are, others are filled with your love throughout the year.
AMEN (Yes it shall be so!)
An original message, including exerpts from:
William Barclay, "The New Daily Study Bible," commentaries, revised
"Putting Away the Bows" by June M. Boone The Upper Room
"How Do We Return" by Cora Lee Pless The Upper Room