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Christmas Extended

The Rev. Lori Walton

Following the liturgical calendar, the one that matters most in the life of an active Anglican (or in the life of a church nerd like myself), Christmas begins with the great Christmas Eve celebration and extends for the twelve days of Christmas, ending on January 5 so that the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 can have its due. 

In 2016, during the month of January, I visited Israel.  Even though it was weeks after Christmas had come and gone and we were officially in the season of Epiphany, the public squares and churches were adorned with Christmas decorations.  Christmas trees, nativity scenes, wreathes, and colorful lights were in full view in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jericho.  Christmas had come and gone on the calendar, but in the life of Israel, Christmas was alive and well.  I asked around as to why and never got much more than a shrug of the shoulder for an answer.  It was as if the mindset was, “Why rush it?  Let us let Christmas linger as long as we can.” 

The 19th century pastor and activist Eberhard Arnold speaks of Jesus bringing a new message to the world, a message of both judgment and rebirth.  The infusion of Jesus announces a totally different social order, one that reveals God’s love to the world, a love that seeks to conquer and rule everything.  Through Christ, a divided humankind is urged to sit together at one table, God’s table.  This is a table that has room for all.  According to Arnold, God invites all people to a meal of fellowship and fetches guests “from the roadsides and skid rows.”  In the now and the not yet, God brings a spirit of unity and love. [1]

The birth of Jesus Christ, God’s Word breaking into a world in discord, brought and brings a spirit of love and unity that is not desired just during Christmas, but is longed for in every moment and in every age.  The completion of God’s work in the world is not yet realized.  The world is divided.  The world is dark.  The world is devoid of love.  And yet, Christ is born again and again, bringing unity, light, and the love that seeks to conquer all.  As we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ this year and in the years to come, let us hold on to that hope.  And once Christ is born on Christmas, let us hold on to the love that comes with the birth of that most sacred child.

I am not a proponent of extending seasons beyond their set time, but I am an advocate of extending the holy goodness that emanates from each season.  For Epiphany it is the manifestation of light.  For Lent it is the repentance that turns us towards God.  For Easter it is the belief in the Resurrection.  For Pentecost it is the celebration of the Spirit.  For Advent it is the anticipation and waiting.  And finally, for Christmas, it is the birth of love and unity into a darkened world made sacred by the Word of God.  And this Good News is not for just a season but is for time everlasting.

May your Advent be filled with the holy waiting and anticipation of the love and unity that will be born into our world.

Lori+


[1] Arnold, Eberhard, Essay: “The Spirit of the Early Church” excerpted from The Early Christians, In Their Own Words, Plough Publishing House, 1997