By the time you read this, we will be in the middle of the 12 Days of Christmas. Yes, they come after Christmas not before. Epiphany will conclude the Christmas season on January 6. (We will mark the occasion the Sunday before on December 31.) All the weeks and months of preparation for Christmas will finally conclude. At some point, the Christmas tree will find its way into a closet or attic.
For most of us, Christmas was the culmination of weeks and months of preparation. The stores pushed Christmas specials since September. All of the presents were wrapped and tucked neatly under the tree. Warm, clear weather allowed the insides and outsides of homes to be decorated leisurely for the last two months. In the church, this Advent time saw us journey through the prophecies about Jesus’ coming all the way to his birth. For weeks, we prepared our hearts and world for Jesus to arrive. We lived in a constant state of activity in lesson, song, and prayer looking forward to Christmas Day. We looked forward to the way this world was about to change.
Ironically, we may prepare too well. For months, we prepared for this day and then when it arrives it is over. We may be better at the living out the Season of Advent than the Season of Christmas and beyond. And the same could be said about Easter. We do Lent well. We like to prepare. We do not know what to do once that preparation comes to fruition though. We arrive at the weeks following Easter and wonder “What is next?”
The scene plays out in our living rooms on Christmas morning. After weeks of decorating and wrapping gifts, the whole thing is over after ten minutes of paper shredding and thank you hugs. And it happens in our churches. The decorations go up. The carols come out. We celebrate for a day and then go back to normal. The day that is supposed to change everything… doesn’t.
I think that it is easier to prepare than to live in the reality of what has happened. It is easier to prepare for joy than to live a joyous life. It is easier to proclaim that the world is about to be transformed in this child who is coming into the world than to actually go out alongside him and change it. It is easier to say that we will be present with you in Jesus Christ than it is to be the presence of Christ in the world.
My hope for you in this New Year and time after Christmas is that you will be truly changed by all the preparation that took place this Advent season. My greater hope is that it will not stop here.