Silence and Stillness before God (2 minutes)
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Written by Duane Cottrell
I want to talk about celebration.
For most of my life, celebrating the “Holiday Season” from Thanksgiving to Christmas meant joyous music, bright twinkling lights, luscious heavy foods, tantalizing sweet treats, aromatic spices, and of course, gifts.
But then it all would end.
On the evening of that one chaotic day, after the gifts had been unwrapped, the food had been eaten, and we’d said good-night to our family and friends with whom we had celebrated, I settled into bed with nothing to look forward to on December 26.
But as I’ve gotten older, the nuances of the Christian calendar have become more interesting and more meaningful to me. This time of year is actually marked by TWO distinct seasons — Advent and Christmastide. Advent is silent, calm, tender, mild, deep, dark, and holy. We sing of love's pure light and solemn stillness. And we wait. “Rejoice, O Israel, Emmanuel shall come.” Christmastide, on the other hand, is triumphant, glorious, joyful, jubilant, bright, and exultant. We sing of the victory of love born among us. And we celebrate. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”
That’s an important distinction. Advent is a time to reflect on the world as it was before Christ, pregnant with expectation. But that’s not Christmas — Christmas is a time to pull out all the stops and celebrate like you’ve not celebrated all year. And perhaps the most important thing I have learned is that Christmastide is TWELVE days long.
You remember the song, right? Imagine a party in your house on the night of January 5 that includes, among all your friends: twelve drums, eleven wind instruments, ten dancers, nine more dancers, eight gallons of milk, seven swans, six geese, five really expensive gifts, four more birds besides the swans and geese, three other kinds of birds, two more birds, and you guessed it — one last bird in a pear tree. That’s a party! (And a lot of birds!)
Celebration of the infant Jesus coming into the world is worthy of twelve full days of celebration. After all, we’ve waited expectantly for at least 28 days, why not extend the party until Epiphany on January 6? Love has come down at Christmas. The Lord is come. The Savior reigns. Gloria in excelsis deo!
A number of years ago, when our kids were smaller, we started celebrating for 12 days by giving a gift each day. (This doesn’t have to be extravagant — think of 12 small stocking stuffers wrapped under your tree.) And after the Advent calendar ran out of chocolate there were 24 candy canes hanging on our tree — one for each child every day. Many of our “12 day” gifts are family experiences — a hike together, a board game, baking cookies, or making gingerbread houses. And some years we’ve even thrown a huge Twelfth Night party with wassail, king cake, and all our friends. But our tree, lights, and decorations absolutely do not, under any circumstance, come down before January 5.
However you may choose to do it, I encourage you to fully celebrate for 12 days this Christmastide. Whenever you smell the deep rich smells of the season, stop and celebrate. Whenever you see twinkling lights or deep reds and greens, stop and celebrate. Whenever you indulge in sweet delicious treats, stop and celebrate. Whenever you hear joyous music filled with blaring brass and sweeping strings, stop and celebrate.
Celebrate that the world has changed. Celebrate that He is come. Celebrate that darkness has already been defeated and we are children of the light.
Celebrate! And have a very merry Christmas!
Lord, help me to not only anticipate, but to revel in and fully celebrate your coming this Christmas.
Conclude with Stillness (2 minutes)