The Christmas Celebration Need Never End
(Even if your tree falls apart in March…)
Now that Christmas is in the rear-view mirror, I remember that there were times my mother left our Christmas tree up until February. I would lie underneath it on cold nights, looking up through the limbs at the lights and decorations in an otherwise dark room.
The gifts were long put away. The Christmas music stilled. Because we did not have VHS, DVD’s or streaming, Christmas specials were a nice memory, not to be seen again until the next Thanksgiving night.
But Christmas remained. I knew it in my child’s heart. I just didn’t know why, or what, or how. And my grasp on ‘who’ was tenuous, tentative, not yet a theology fully grasped. (Alas, as if it ever is.) Somehow, though, Christmas was a thing I held tightly. This despite the fact that the tree was eventually boxed up, the weather became warm and other seasons and holidays came and went.
Many men and women, many boys and girls try each season to make the most of Advent and Christmas. Sometimes they hold onto the 12 Days of Christmas (for good measure). Some Christian traditions keep Epiphany, and celebrate the visit of the Magi.
It’s a beautiful thing, to hold to something so ancient, so immense and important; not to abandon it simply because of the progression of clocks and calendars.
We aren’t crazy, we who try to keep the reminders of the season close at hand. It’s that passion for Christmas, for the Christ of Christmas; that keeps us sane. For those who really get Christmas recognize that it isn’t merely a time of trees and lights. It’s actually more like a stone dropped in a pond, with ripples that go out and lap at the shore all year.
Or maybe it’s a boulder, dropped in a lake, with waves that go on and on for centuries.
Rather, I think Christmas is a meteorite, burning bright from the skies, crashing into the turbulent, dangerous ocean of life, and forever transforming the seas and shores; its waves of love crashing over mountains and plains to remake and reanimate the earth and all her inhabitants in time and eternity.
The world has tried valiantly to tame it. We now spend so much of our devotion on fat Santa Claus and flying reindeer, on ornaments, on elves and snowmen. We work like mad to buy things and offer sacrifices on the altar of avarice. We lose our way. I am as guilty as the rest. I do not throw stones in a house of glass ornaments.
But behind all of the red and green externals, there is still the story of the child in the manger, announced by angels, who became the man of crucifixion, the man of resurrection. We love the lights, but the only lights there were stars and perhaps a flame; a lamp, a torch. We love lavish, costly gifts, but that was a poor family in a poor place. All of our modern imagery of Christmas ultimately rests on the tale of the plain family, swept up with the child Messiah.
Encompassing and surpassing the lights and parties, the liquor and laughter we find a story of redemption that is breathtaking in scope. (Equally remarkable whether once considers it unprecedented, early modern fiction or life-altering historical fact.) The seismic waves of Christmas crash and echo around the world, whether or not December 25th is the right day or the wrong.
I fear that the modern world would love to pack it into tight boxes, taped and marked ‘danger, use for one month; expires on December 26.’ We often keep it safe on the shelves of our attics and basements, where its power is hidden from our eyes and hearts.
But dear fellow Christmas lovers, nothing keeps it contained! We carry it everywhere. It does not require snow or decorations. It does not need parties or ginger-bread. The birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death and resurrection, all emanate in straight, bright, uninterrupted lines from the manger.
And all our talk of goodness and kindness, all our pure gift giving, all our compassion for the cold and hungry, all our political agitation for justice and truth and fairness? Like it or not, they come from the manger, and cross, as well.
Put the tree away. Wrap up the Santas. But rest assured, Christmas never ends when we keep Christ. No box will hold Him, anymore than a tomb. And He is unconstrained by time.
The celebration need never end. No matter how ragged your tree looks in March.