The above refrain is fresh in our minds. Generally speaking it’s one reserved for a narrow 48-hour window (Christmas Eve & Christmas Day).
By this point in time it’s a faux pas to use the phrase as we’ve already turned our sights to the new year and beyond. The decorations (presumably) are soon to come down and the gift returns have been made by this point. While this may be the way that the world around us works, it does not mean that is how the church works.
Christmas is a season in the life of the church which concludes on January 6th with the festival of Epiphany. As pastor, I love this sacred time on the church calendar. After I have led countless services and met countless new faces over the course of some of our most beloved services of the year, I find an entire season to rest in the presence of God. Epiphany serves as a reminder that indeed God has been revealed to us, and continues to be revealed to us, not just during a 48-hour window, but every day. This is part of the “Mystery of Christmas” that has been the focus of our readings and preaching in the past month or so. Not only is it a mystery how the king we receive is a child born in a manger in the past and present. It is likewise a mystery that the child continues to be present in our lives millennia after his death. Certainly this is the “Good News” that the writers of the gospels are always talking about.
I remember preparing for the birth of our first son. We were filled with a wide range of emotions from excitement and anticipation to fear and helplessness. Then he was born prematurely, spending the first 5 week of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Multiple times daily we would journey to the hospital to hold him, feed him, or simply watch him sleep. Multiple times daily we would go home without him, as even though we were ready for him, his little body wasn’t yet ready for us and the outside world. We longed for the day when our time together wouldn’t be limited by visitation hours.
Finally one day it happened – he was cleared for discharge and we arrived home with our new-ish baby son, Henry, in tow. The joy of that moment felt like the day of his birth all over again as we finally brought him home, into our daily lives, some 5 weeks after his birth.
Sometimes I think it’s important that we be reminded that the joy of the birth of our savior isn’t limited to an annual 48-hour experience, but something that happens daily. The presence of God in our midst is still exciting 5 days, 5 weeks, 2,000 years after it happens. It is the promise of God’s ongoing presence revealed to us. So I’ll say it again (even it is a faux pas) Merry Christmas – today, tomorrow, and every day!