So, what’s next?

Published 2:00 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas in my church was not yet over on Dec. 26.

For us, Christmas is a season lasting until Jan. 6. This is the origin of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and we close with the ceremonies of Epiphany. The event of Christmas—that is, the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph in a stable—is the beginning of our Christmas observance, not the end.

For many others, Christmas comes in one day and is over by the next morning. Santa has come and gone. The Baby is in the manger. OK, that’s done, time to take down the decorations and get in line for the bargains in the stores’ post-holiday sales.

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In the calendar of the Christian Church, we are given 14 days for the season of Christmas. Fourteen days for celebration, prayer, worship, thanksgiving, singing carols and joy. That seems more realistic to me. Who ever heard of a family celebrating only on the one day that the baby is born? When our children arrive after nine months of waiting and planning, and the pain of delivery, we celebrate for weeks. Our friends come to meet the new person in our lives. They bring gifts and everyone is excited at all the possibilities the new little one brings.

Christmas reminds us that God became flesh—our flesh. God in the flesh walking with us. There is so much more to celebrate than just one day can hold!

Christmas reminds us that Jesus chose the poor and the needy, the shabby and the seedy for His friends. Jesus touched a leper, spat into dirt to make mud for a blind man’s eyes, and stood between a shamed woman and those who would stone her. Jesus never said to anyone that their past was all that mattered.

Christmas reminds us that we cannot buy our way into the grace of God. The Magi brought expensive gifts to honor the Baby Jesus, but they were no more welcome than the poor shepherds, awkward, dirty and smelling like sheep. Both groups of men offered the best of themselves—their worship. And both groups of men are remembered for their place at the manger.

Christmas reminds us that our hearts are to be changed by the event of the day. The birth of the Baby Jesus has no value without the sacrifice of the cross and the resurrection to new life.

Christmas is meaningless for us unless our hearts are reborn and our lives reflect the light and love God showed to us that day. We must love and serve, feed the hungry and clothe the naked, break down the barriers of race and social standing, open our altars and our churches to those in need of God—the up-and-outs as well as the down-and-outs.

As you take down the tree in your living room, plant a tree in your heart. As you pack away the lights til next year, turn on the light of God’s glory in your heart. Make your card list your prayer list. Look for someone who needs what you have and offer it. Increase your giving to your church just 1 percent. When there is a two-for-one sale, buy two and give one away. Begin living next Christmas today. You might be surprised at what new glories Christmas has for your life.