Pondering the post-Christmas letdown

David Burchett

Greeting cards have all been sent
The Christmas rush is through
But I still have one wish to make
A special one for you
     Lyrics from ‘Merry Christmas Darling’ – The Carpenters

Yesterday I braved the day after Christmas shopping throngs with the lovely Mrs. Burchett in search of sale priced Christmas ornaments and other half-priced treasures. Actually I found the shopping frenzy to be only slightly less dangerous than the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. So I spent a fair amount of time in a nearby Starbucks while she braved the frothing throngs. But I was with her in spirit.

My caffeinated quiet time gave me an opportunity to reflect on the odd way we celebrate Christmas. The build up to Christmas goes on for weeks and then, almost before you can file a lawsuit, it is over. We rush pell mell to Christmas Day with intensity that would make Coach Bobby Knight proud. The day itself, like the average Super Bowl, cannot live up to the hype.

So I sat listening to ‘Winter Wonderland’ in the seventy degree temperatures of Dallas and I felt a little melancholy. Somehow I had managed to let another Christmas sneak up on me and pass me by while I was busy shopping, wrapping, buying, and rushing. I have a calendar. I know from the Beach Boys that Christmas comes this time each year. How does this happen? Christmas is my favorite time of the year and now I sat wondering where it had gone? How did I miss it? I suddenly felt like I was in the middle of a Peanuts Christmas special

Charlie Brown: “I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.” Lucy Van Pelt: “Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.”

I hope I haven’t turned Christmas into a problem but I really do want it to last more than a day. Maybe the idea of the Twelve Days of Christmas is a good one. That would give me some time to settle in a bit before the holiday goes whizzing by. The 12 days of Christmas were traditionally the 12 days that separate December 25 from Epiphany, which is celebrated January 6. Some believed that was the date that the wise men visited the baby Jesus with their gifts.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew  2  NIV

Obviously Mary and Joseph had located a place to stay since the birth of Jesus. The Magi came to the house (not the stable) and saw the child. Traditionally there has been the custom of giving gifts throughout the 12 days, rather than the frenetic frenzy on the morning of December 25. That tradition has never really caught on in instant gratification America. The most difficult fruit of the spirit to successfully cultivate in this culture is patience. Apparently our American soil does not allow the patience fruit to mature.

But I suspect our society could commercialize the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas tradition as well. We would simply increase the angst and sale papers and overall frenzy. If you can’t find one perfect gift imagine how crazy trying to buy twelve would make you! Perhaps thoughtful Christians could co-opt the 12 Days of Christmas and make it a time of reflection on the incarnation of a Savior. Maybe we could spend a little extra time meditating on the miracle of God becoming man and yet remaining God.

I find it interesting that epiphany has become an “in” word and is defined at as  “a sudden manifestation of the meaning of something.” How appropriate that by reflecting for the next few days on the arrival of Jesus you could have an epiphany just in time for Epiphany! The original Christmas epiphany happened in the fields outside of Bethlehem. Joni and I had the privilege of seeing those fields outside of the city last year. I was struck by how “nearby” the shepherds were as they watching over the flocks. Everything is so big in Texas that I was amazed at the small scale of that setting.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger."

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 "Glory to God in the highest,
      and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 

Rewind to the beginning of this blog with the Carpenters. I do have one wish…make that prayer…for you during this Christmas season. I pray that you have found the One that the shepherds hurried to see. And that you will spread the word of what you have been told about Him. And if you have not I pray that you might have an epiphany during these 12 Days of Christmas.

Merry Second Day of Christmas! (Turtle Dove Day...if you are keeping score)