by Dan Jean
“The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days;
so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully.” 2 Chronicles 30:23
The anticipation of the big day is a memory. The gifts have all been unwrapped. The guests have gone home. It is time to take down those decorations. The Christmas season has come to an end, and a new year is here.
As the tree comes down, the cards are read one last time and thrown away, and the wreaths and tinsel go back in the closet, the season of joy comes to an abrupt end. The house looks bare and drab after the sparkles and bright colors are put away. There is a sadness that wants to creep in and unravel our experience. It is too easy to “pack and label” our Christmas joy and good will, and put them away until next year. I don’t think it has to be this way. Here is why…
First, the “label” is wrong. The trappings of Christmas are NOT Christmas, but only symbols of it. We don’t celebrate a decorated tree. We don’t anticipate eggnog and lighted houses. Yes, we enjoy them. Yes, they add to our experience. I urge care that we not “label” these icons incorrectly, and give them too much importance. Christmas is about the birth of a savior and the joy that birth brings to all people. Worship, the re-telling of the important stories of our faith, is a joyful component of Christmas. The church celebrates weekly, not annually. The Christ in Christmas promises to be with us always.
Next, we can continue to feast. Our gatherings with family, friends, and loved ones over a meal are not rare events, or at least they don’t need to be. A shared meal is always a celebration. Most of us eat two or three times a day! Re-label “dinner.” Call it a “feast”. Invite a friend. Talk. Laugh. Celebrate! Don’t pack away the joy of sharing a meal.
Also, for me, a component of extending the Christmas season for twelve months involves not “packing and putting away” the joy and good will we long for. Keep joy. Keep good will. The most spirited part of the brightest Christmas sweater – the detail that makes it stand out – is the bright smile just a few inches above the collar. In fact, that smile may be one of the best decorations on display throughout the season. You can pack that sweater away for another year, but your smile is in style all year long. It is joy you long for. Don’t pack it away.
Remember that Jesus’ birth is not something that happened “to us” a long time ago, but is something that happens “in us” always. Continue the celebration. Let the joy of the savior shine from within all year long.
Pastor Dan Jean
A Pastor’s Letters, 2014
This is from a collection of articles Dan Jean wrote to his congregation, New Hope United Methodist Church. Republished with his permission.
By Roy Myers
1 Corinthians 13
Our holiday decorations have become one part of the way we create space for celebration and a way to proclaim our love for God and each other during the holiday. Dana and Peter, particularly, love to decorate. Of course we have a tree and other traditional trimmings. We also have many knickknacks and lights, perhaps not as many as some and probably more than others. This tradition is so important to us that we developed a special collection of deployment holiday décor, which Dana sends me while I am away. Over the years, my ‘deployment holiday set’ composed of a tiny tree, lights and Thanksgiving Turkey have grown into a pretty neat package of memories. These items are a precious reminder to me of the love we share even as I am far from home. The decorations also express a reminder of love from home for those who stop by my office to take a moment and enjoy some holiday cheer.
In reflecting upon our family tradition, I began to wonder how we might expand upon holiday home decoration. Could our love itself decorate the spaces and events of the season as a demonstration of the love of God expressed though the Incarnation of Jesus? I Corinthians 13 describes what could be thought of as decorations that we can bring to our holiday celebrations and observances. How might God’s love during this season become more patient and kind? How does the Incarnation of Jesus remind me to step back from prideful hubris and lean into long suffering forgiveness? How does God’s love in and among us strengthen us to tell the truth in forbearance, confidence and hope? In many ways the process of decoration with knickknacks and lights seems much easier than the challenge of a love that ‘hopes all things and endures all things.’ I hope in this holiday season that you might consider how each of us can decorate our celebrations with the love described in I Corinthians 13.