The traditional Christian celebration of Christmas is exactly the opposite of what we clebrate today. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and for nearly a month Christians await the coming of Christ in a spirit of expectation, singing hymns of longing. Then, on December 25, Christmas Day itself ushers in twelve days of celebration, ending only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany. Exhortations to follow this calendar rather than the secular one have become routine at this time of year. But often the focus falls on giving Advent its due, with the Twelve Days of Christmas relegated to the words of a cryptic traditional carol. Most people are simply too tired after Christmas Day to do much celebrating.
The "real" twelve days of Christmas are important not just as a way of thumbing our noses at secular ideas of the "Christmas season." They are important because they give us a way of reflecting on what the Incarnation means in our lives. Christmas commemorates the most momentous event in human history—the entry of God into the world He made, in the form of a baby. The Logos through whom the worlds were made took up His dwelling among us in a tabernacle of flesh. One of the prayers for Christmas Day in the Catholic liturgy encapsulates what Christmas means for all believers: "O God, who marvelously created and yet more marvelously restored the dignity of human nature, grant that we may share the divinity of Him who humbled himself to share our humanity." In Christ, our human nature was united to God, and when Christ enters our hearts, he brings us into that union.
Epiphany (January 6), the celebration of Christmas comes to an end. "Twelfth Night" (as all lovers of Shakespeare know) is the ultimate celebration of Christmas madness (Shakespeare's play features one of his many "wise fools" who understand the real meaning of life better than those who think they are sane). Epiphany commemorates the beginning of the proclamation of the gospel—Christ's manifestation to the nations, as shown in three different events: the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the turning of water into wine. In the Western tradition, the Magi predominate. But in the Eastern churches, Jesus' baptism tends to be the primary theme. In the Bucharest subway, children leading lambs walk through the trains in commemoration of the Lamb of God to whom John pointed. Orthodox Christians traditionally have their homes blessed with holy water on or around this day. Nowhere is Epiphany celebrated more joyously than in Ethiopia. Pilgrims from all over the country converge on the ancient city of Aksum, where they bathe in a great reservoir whose waters have been blessed by a priest.
Epiphany is often a forgotten festival. As the true end-point of the Christmas season, however, Epiphany sends us into the world to live out the Incarnation, to witness to the light of Christ in the darkness. Following Jesus, we have been baptized into his death and resurrection. Whether we are called to martyrdom, or to prophetic witness, or simply to faithful living in the joys and sorrows of our daily lives, we live all of our days in the knowledge of our dignity, redeemed through Christ and united to God. We are part of the strange society of people whose world has been turned upside down, and we go out to witness to this topsy-turvy truth: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us: and we beheld his glory … and of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace" (John 1:14, 16).
This was our first year with it all, so we’re still learning which each day represents, etc. Anyway, taking DOWN the Christmas stuff is the worst part for me. I hate it. I absolutely love our home, but the few days after the Christmas stuff is gone it just feels so plain! I want my twinkly lights back. We ended Saturday night watching Jason’s all time favorite Christmas movie “A White Christmas”. And because we were in the habit of reading nightly and I was super bummed to put away our Christmas book, Jason and I decided to not break the habit and last night we began reading “Love & Respect” (again).
So, Sunday was back to normal. Andrew had a basketball game (though he is not yet ‘cleared’ for play, due to his Osgood-Schlatter disease). Hopefully next week. Then we went to a friend’s house in San Pedro and enjoyed some time with “family” we haven’t seen in awhile. Sorry, no photos – I was a slacker.