It's been a while since I've posted anything (12/17), which is a testament to what life has been like lately. First, the rush up to Christmas. Preparations--both personal and professional--needed to be made in order for Christmas to come both to our house and to our parish. Then, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Finding time to be with one's children while also trying to be present for three services wasn't easy. Finally, the quiet recovery, which is still going on. I've slept in for two mornings in a row. I haven't shaven since the 24th (though it seems like the beard is on its way back). With the exception of some hospital visits, I've pretty much enjoyed a few days off of work.
But Christmas isn't over. As my daughter has announced both of the last two mornings, "Happy Second Day of Christmas!" and "Happy Third Day of Christmas!" She's got nine to go. Yet, when I drove in to the office this morning (yes, I did), I saw several people taking down their decorations. When I stopped in to pick up some dry cleaning, I almost wished the clerk "Merry Christmas," but I didn't since I'm willing to bet that she got all of her "Merry Christmases" out of the way two days ago. Here's the other side of Advent.
For four weeks, the Church prepares for Christmas by NOT celebrating Christmas while the world around us Ho-Ho-Hos its way through December. Then, for twelve days, the Church DOES celebrate Christmas while the rest of the world begins counting down how many days until Santa comes back next year. We're stuck out of sync with everyone else.
In our house, we waited until the afternoon of the fourth Sunday of Advent to put up our Christmas tree. That's one way we try to keep Advent as Advent and wait for Christmas for Christmas. But by Monday afternoon, we'll be the only house on the block who still has lights around the front door. What's missing?
How often do we spend weeks getting ready for something? There's spiritual/emotional/intellectual value in taking time in preparation. We don't do it often enough anymore. And how often do we celebrate something intentionally for twelve days? Even the most traditional among us (ahem, that's me) has a hard time keeping the Christmas spirit going for almost two weeks after everyone else has packed it up. But there's a reason to do that, too. It's so that we don't let go of the prepare-initiate-celebrate model that's central to our faith.
We do that not only at Christmas but also at Easter. And we do that not only at Easter but also in our coming-to-faith practices that are sometimes called "the catechumenate" and other times called "Confirmation class." We prepare. We initiate. And then we celebrate--every day for as long as we're alive. Advent-Christmas-12Days is a model of faith. So keep on celebrating. Enjoy the rest of these twelve days. Say "Merry Christmas" every chance you get--especially as January 5 comes closer. Let everyone else think you're strange. You are. We are. We're Christians.