The high point of the holiday season has come and gone, leaving the echoes of merriment and festivity in its wake. We’re all a bit heavier in the belly and lighter in the wallet as a result. But—as we all no doubt rationalize—it’s all part of the Christmas season.
As we prepare for the New Year, what happens to the bonds that have been re-kindled, made and established with new friends and old, family members and loved ones alike? Will you maintain this attitude of generosity and appreciation, charity and love, smiling, happiness and joy?
Helping around the house, being nice to the kids and tolerant of your extended family… was that just a façade? Or will you continue to be this person that you have been over the holiday season? The Christmas Holiday season is especially special because so many people become selfless and do things for others rather than themselves—and so they become another person, a better person. A person that exhibits patience, understanding and selflessness. Is there a reason why this has to change—if not, then why does it?
Even as I write this, no doubt the pine needles are escaping the boughs of your dying trees and hiding in places where they won’t be found until next year’s holiday cleaning. For those of you who traveled this past week, the airport and road rage are only now beginning to subside. After a month of Christmas hymns and carols about the birth of Christ and what will be accomplished after His arrival, am I the only one feeling just a little let down because the world looks pretty much the same as it did six days ago? Christ is born—He is born indeed—so why does everything seem the same?
Our great sense of anticipation from Advent—all of the excitement of Christ’s arrival—has burst like a balloon, leaving scraps of rubber behind, and a lot of hot air. We know from experience that no gift, once opened, can ever match the delicious anticipation that comes from gazing at the beautiful wrapping it comes in. The wrapping paper, like the swaddling clothes, lures us in to the magic that abides beneath—gift and savior, fulfillment and peace—but now we sit, spent, wrapping paper torn and lying around us. Christmas hymns falling flat as we return to a reality we secretly hoped would be forever altered.
Some of us will be heading back to work (if not back on task already). Others will be hitting up the stores and standing in lengthy return lines. We’ll be eating leftovers from holiday dinners and munching on candy from now ’til New Years. Some of us may choose to use up those last remaining vacation hours to recuperate from another busy season—and yet, for some, nothing will change. For these, maybe Christmas is just another day—maybe even a day you dread—a day you just get too overwhelmed with everything.
It doesn’t help matters that the Gospel account will not be complicit in our desires to stay around the manger, staring at that tiny, perfect baby. We don’t even get to see cute little Jesus grow into a toddler, walking on unsteady feet towards blissful parents, still a source of wonder and hope for the world‟s peace. In a quick turn of phrase—as soon as the “wise guys” headed out of town—the same angel who told Joseph that Mary would bear the child who would save His people from their sins—tells “Papa Joe” to round up his family and make a run for Egypt.
But also remember that we are not to be mere “observers” of the Christmas story, but that we are all called to be participants in it—indeed, we are characters in the ongoing chapters still to be written!
Were we only observers of the Christmas story, the violence and terror of Herod—and all who have come after him—would have won out, and we wouldn’t still be singing Christmas carols on the many mornings after, heralding the birth of our Savior. Even as the tragedies of the world continue to encroach upon us, hope has been born and survived the very worst that the evils of the world can throw at Him. Yes friends, hope endures. The heavenly victory overtakes the temporary victory of the powers and principalities; and God’s people stand fast in their faithfulness—all of this because God has declared unconditional, everlasting love for us, from the manger to the cross, from the depths of the grave to the very heights of Heaven. God has entered history and entered our lives in the most extraordinary of ways. God of compassion. God with us.
So as the New Year approaches, do not lose sight of what you have become. The season is here now, and will soon pass. However, your graciousness, appreciation and respect for others does not have to pass with it. Hold on to who you have become, for all seasons. Do not let your humbled spirit and attitude fade as the season passes. Your attitude is your outward appearance to the world. Be the best “you” for all seasons and you will see how your attitude affects others in a positive light.
Christmas is over, now what? Well, now let’s start living lives set apart in His name, for His glory.