The poet W.H. Auden summed up how many people view the week after Christmas in his poem, For the Time Being. As he sits in the aftermath of Christmas celebrations, he reflects:
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes –
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week –
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully –
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.
It was written in the early 1940s, but it sounds like it could have been written yesterday! Many people feel like Christmas ends after the big celebration on Dec. 25, and the last week of December devolves into a time of putting decorations away, exchanging and returning gifts, and trying to eat up leftovers before they go bad. With that understanding of the aftermath of Christmas, no wonder people often feel tired and even a bit downhearted.
That’s part of why I think there’s wisdom in the old liturgical tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. For much of Christianity, including Presbyterians, Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas, not the last. In fact, Christmas as a season lasts twelve days up to Epiphany, when we celebrate the arrival of the Magi (Wise Men) who come from the East bearing gifts for Christ. And so the decorations stay up because we have just started celebrating Christ’s birth, and we don’t get the immediate letdown of an end on Dec. 26. The aftermath of Christmas Day, then, is an ongoing celebration of Christ’s birth.
But the aftermath of Christmas also has a much deeper power, as well; the birth of Jesus Christ as Emanuel, “God with us,” provokes more consequences and reactions from the world than just joy and celebration, because in Jesus Christ, God is re-announcing God’s claim upon this earth and all that is in it, including us.
This Sunday we’ll be looking at why and how the aftermath of Christmas is very much good news, a crucial part of the gospel that we sometimes pack away too early with our decorations. So I hope you will be here in worship on Sunday if you are home, and if you are on the road, you can listen to the recording on our website at the beginning of next week!
Grace and Peace,