Last Sunday our family took down our Christmas tree – we rolled up the garland, boxed up the ornaments (except for the two I rescued yesterday from the curb before that trash was collected) and wound up the lights. I find the days after New Years, when all the Christmas decorations come down and all the gifts get put away, saddening. It means, at least to me, that the season of goodwill to men and joy to the world is over and the days of blizzards and freezing temperatures are upon us. Wouldn’t it be nice if Christmas would last the whole year?
Enjoying the spirit of Christmas throughout the year would be a pleasant change. It would be refreshing if sales clerks and cashiers wore a smile and shared a pleasant greeting outside the month of December. It would be great if friends and family separated by miles would send cards and letters during the warmer months. It would be lovely to entertain co-workers and neighbors with tablecloths and napkins that were not red and green. It would be heartwarming for churches to have Christmas Eve attendance at a Sunday service in March or August. Do we have to stop celebrating Christmas until Black Friday, which would be another 322 days?
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23
One of the aspects of Christmas worth celebrating is the promise of the Prophet Micah that Matthew repeats: God is with us. The meaning of the name Immanuel does not include a condition: it does not mean that God is with us during the month of December or that God is with us if we choose to accept that God is with us. God is with us; God is always with all of us. Now, since God is with us, would it be so terrible to celebrate His advent (His glorious appearing to humanity) beyond the 12th month of the year?
While we could sing carols all year long, it might be better if we maintain the biblical gifts of Christmas regardless of the season. We could keep in our hearts and our actions the blessings of hope, peace, joy and love that best represent the presence of God incarnate. While we may pack up the Santas and snowmen, we need not pack up the Spirit of Christmas. We can still keep hope – an expectation or belief that what we desire will be fulfilled; we can still keep peace – complete well-being and reconciliation; we can still keep joy – a willful satisfaction with life beyond circumstance; and we can still keep love – self-sacrifice for the sake of another.
These are attitudes that lead to actions that may help us celebrate Christmas – and the blessed appearing of Christ – all year long. We could live every day expecting what God promises, resting in what God provides, enjoying what God enables and sharing with others what God has lavished upon us. We could pack up the tree but still have the light in our hearts, carrying a little bit of Christmas with us all the time.