After weeks of preparation and excitement, the big day has come and gone. The stores are still full of shoppers taking advantage of post-holiday sales, using gift cards, and returning items that just didn’t work. Restaurants are full of people who can’t face one more meal of leftovers now that the pecan pie is gone. Houses are full of kids who have settled back into there’s-nothing-to-do mode and adults who are looking at the decorations and wondering where they’re going to store all the festivities until next year.
Opinions vary widely on when the decorations should come down. Some people begin dismantling the tree while Christmas dinner is being prepared, some take them down while nursing a New Year’s hangover, and some leave them up until after Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas. Regardless of when the last box of ornaments makes it back into the attic or the last cookie is thrown out, falling victim to yet another resolution to lose a few pounds, when does Christmas really end?
Maybe it ends when the seasonal music is over, when we stop singing “Glory to God in the highest” and go back to singing “Locked Out of Heaven” or “I Cry.” Maybe Christmas is over when we return to our normal routines, those routines that don’t include visits to the lonely or donations to the hungry. Or maybe it’s over when we no longer kneel in wonder in the presence of God incarnate but instead complain because we don’t like the song the choir sang today.
The ladies’ group at my church has an annual Christmas party that includes a white elephant gift exchange. This year, one lady was excited when she opened a box containing a small crystal nativity set. Then she laughed as she realized this gift has made prior appearances at our parties because Jesus is missing from the set. Nobody knows where He went – whether the set was shipped incomplete or the missing figure was broken by tiny, curious fingers or if the family dog buried it with a turkey bone.
I have my own theory. I think that one year, when it came time to box up the nativity set, a child who was still filled with the wonder of the season, didn’t want to pack Jesus away. She slipped the little glass baby into her pocket when Mom wasn’t looking and put Him on her shelf between the Teddy bear with a missing eye and the doll wearing the special dress that Grandma made. Every night after Mom or Dad reads her a story, helps her with her prayers, tucks her in, and turns off the light she slips out of bed and tiptoes over to the shelf. Peeking between the bear and the doll, she whispers, Good night, Jesus. Merry Christmas.
You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time. Matthew 28:20b (ERV)
May the blessings of Christmas be yours all year long,