“Why can’t it remain, All through the year… That spirit of Christmas” – Ray Charles
As I write this, it’s the day after Christmas. The family is still asleep. The lights are off and the music stopped many hours ago. We’ll soon be enjoying a few days of reprieve before we trade White Christmas for Auld Lang Syne. Within the week we’ll usher in a new year and send off the old with a sigh of good riddance while doing our best to extend the holiday time of peace and tranquility.
Something that I learned early on is that the drudge of American life makes it enticing to live from moment to moment. Whether it’s holiday to holiday, or season to season, there is some sense of anticipation for whatever may come next. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the traditional American work ethic, where the hours are long and the siestas are non-existent?
In the waning days of Spring, we anxiously await Summer break, shorts, and vacation. Once school returns, we long for the sweater weather, the changing leaves, and football season. In the Fall, it’s the holiday lights, cheers, and the winter wonderland we pine for. Then we rinse and repeat.
Perhaps this anticipation is the reason that a mild sense of despair inevitably follows Christmas? All of the holiday cheer disappears overnight. Radio stations go back to their worldly playlist. The trees and lights come down. We must return to work as usual. We wish that we could live in the celebration forever, but perhaps that would give us nothing to work toward the rest of the year? Only 364 more days until we can do it again!
Somehow, I don’t think this honors the spirit of Christmas and the God of the universe stepping down into the world, and perhaps that speaks more to our focus. For thousands of years preceding the birth of Jesus, prophets stood on street corners and shared their visions of redemption with God’s people, and the people of Israel clung to those words anxiously awaiting a king to champion their cause. The last of those prophets disappeared some 400 years before the birth of Christ. Our forebearers knew something of waiting.
What was the feeling when the sun rose on the infant Christ child? It certainly wasn’t doom and gloom. There were no lights to take down or playlists to shelve for another year. We didn’t yet know it, but it was the most hopeful morning for humanity. Perhaps that should be our response to the day after Christmas? The celebration didn’t end for 364 days, it began for an eternity.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
– Isaiah 9:6, c. 700 BCE