And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
It seems that every year we spend so much time and energy celebrating a day before it comes.
Right after Thanksgiving we start. We get out the Christmas lights and ornaments. We decorate our lawns, our houses, our living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms. We put up a Christmas tree about the same time.
Then we party. We have office parties, family parties, caroling parties, and whatever kind of Christmas party we can think of.
We also shop. We shop for our loved ones and friends. We wrap their gifts and place them under the tree. And while we eagerly wait for that hour when we open them, we eat, drink, and generally make merry.
Then comes Christmas eve—a day and night that ought to be a vigil of prayer—and we round up the children and corral them into Christmas plays and cantatas, after which we all go home to party again around the Christmas tree. We open our gifts, we drink our wine, and we eat our Christmas treats.
So it is that when December 25th comes around, Christmas day, the beginning of the Christmas season, the celebration of Christ's birth seems so very anti-climactic. The high point of our hopes and dreams, the so-called “reason for the season,” Christ's nativity, has been pushed to the back of the Christmas tree, obscured by the wrapping paper, and ribbon, and all the other seasonal trappings in which we are immersed.
I think that this anti-climactic attitude is best illustrated in the erroneous idea that the twelve days of Christmas begin on December 13th! I've heard it many times. Stores and malls push last minute shopping, the Red Cross has blood drives, radio stations play Christmas songs each labeling it under the title “The Twelve Days of Christmas;” and it's all carried on the week and a half before the holiday!
Of course, we know today is the first day of Christmas. Today we begin the twelve day period that ends on January 6th, Epiphany Day. In fact, the Church may celebrate Christmas through February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, which was 40 days after His birth. However long we celebrate, though, today is the day that we begin our Christmas season. Yesterday the Advent season ended, and today the Christmas season begins.
And the real joy of Christmas should be our focus today. All that happened when Christ was born should be the light that enlightens our minds until the “morning star rises in our hearts” and Christmas hope lights our souls.
Ask yourself this Christmas morning, just what is your real treasure? In other words, what is the high point and true focus of your heart today?
This Holy Day, God would have us focus on the light that shines in the darkness, the true light that enlightens everyone. Today we look to “the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is and always shall be the highlight for you this day and at any time of the year; for in Him Christmas is anything but anti-climactic.
There certainly was nothing anti-climactic about Christ's birth for Mary and Joseph. It was a day they long waited for. The promise of the angel had been born. Now they had many years before them to cherish and care for the very Son of God.
There was nothing anti-climactic about Christ's birth for the shepherds. This was a day they also looked for. The promise of the Father spoken through the prophets had been born. Now they had the age of the Christ to live in, to find new hope in their Redeemer.
There was nothing anti-climactic about Christ's birth for the angels. The promise of the Creator had been born. Now the mystery into which they longed to peer is come into the world for heaven and earth to rejoice over.
And we may say that there was nothing anti-climactic about Christ's birth to the Savior Himself. He had come to take on the flesh of man so that He could redeem all flesh. He came to take away the sin that killed man, and to restore man's holiness through His Incarnation. He came as the fulfillment of all the promises. And He looked longingly for that climactic event when He would suffer and die on the cross for all the world’s sin. Then to be raised again that all who believe in Him may never again die.
Finally, it must be said, that there need be nothing anti-climactic about Christ's birth for you and me. For whether you begin celebrating today, or began December first, or began last January, this is the day we long for. The promise of the Christ Child, with all of His grace and truth, is given to you this day. The promise is for you—“the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The real high point of Christmas is the birth of Christ, and the star of hope that now glimmers in the dark night of our souls. Such a gift we may treasure! Such an event we may ponder anew in our hearts!