Far from winding up the celebrations, the Twelve Days of Christmas officially begin on December 25. Living the truth about Christmas is another opportunity to affirm the countercultural thrust of the gospel; as Christ-followers we can continue to take our lead from Jesus instead of the world.
But we live in a civilization driven to honor commerce, the most demanding of our gods. The instant the last gift is unwrapped, the entire machine runs out of steam and pretty much deflates, right there on the living room floor. And that, my Advent traveling companions, is a sad, sad reality that we simply cannot accommodate or continue to support.
People all over the world experience "postholiday depression," sometimes as early as first-light on Christmas morning. However, when a socially leveraged gift-binge becomes THE defining moment, when weeks of buildup lead inescapably to one anticlimactic half hour, then what else could possibly remain but disillusionment and bitter disappointment? - "In My Heart I Carry A Star: Stories for Advent" page 142
There are two Christmas questions I hear repeated pretty much every year. First, "How early is too early to decorate?" and, "When is the right time to take decorations down?"
These questions are not the same as, "When is it OK for stores to begin merchandising for the holidays?" That is a whole other - long - conversation!
When our children were little, Rebekah and I used Advent as a teaching tool (In fact, that's a useful explanation of the structure of the "Church Calendar" or "Ecclesiastical Year." The predictable rotation of New Testament highlights throughout the calendar year was designed as a means of keeping the story in front of people; like a series of live-action stained-glass windows.)
Our family tradition was to set out the manger scene the first Sunday of Advent, adding maybe a wreath on the front door. Together, we'd retell the story as the characters were introduced. Other decorations appeared over time, but it was fairly low-key.
Advent is the season of expectation, designed to get us ready for the birth of the Savior. We were all about making sure the children had both the real story in mind and hearts ready to receive the King.
Then, starting around December 27, we would gradually begin to put away some of the decorations, but never taking the lights off the tree until we had competed the 12-days.
We still respect tradition. However, nowadays here at Maul Hall we tend to pile on the festive bling the moment we finish cleaning up from Thanksgiving. It's a long story, but the Cliff Notes version goes like this: One year some kind of a dam burst; it was like the lid came off and Rebekah found her true Christmas-decorating self. Since then December at our house has been brighter, longer and significantly more sacred.
"More sacred... How so?" Yes, because - and I think this is the crux of the evolution in our own spirits - the more we reflect on the nature of God's gift, and the more we consider what was at stake when God willingly entered this dangerous world as a helpless infant, then the more noise we want to make about the celebration.
In my way of thinking - the way I see it, Christmas is worth going over the top for - DEREK