Christmas 2017 confession: I didn't put my outdoor Christmas lights up until Christmas Eve. Living in the south, most people would consider this crazy, considering that they took theirs down the day after Christmas. But I have decided that I am going to live my life according to the liturgical calendar and relieve my Christmas stress.
The weeks leading up to Christmas are the Advent season. Many people are familiar with the Advent season as the preparation for Christmas. What is interesting about this is that we are not just preparing to celebrate the birth of Christmas, we are also preparing for the return of Jesus. For those of you familiar with the running around stress of trying to get everything done before Christmas, you would not believe the relief that this second kind of preparation brings. Yes, I want to do all that I can to make Christmas special for those around me, but if I am so busy with all the "stuff" that I miss out on Jesus, I have missed the point. If Jesus really did come back on Christmas Eve, would my soul be ready for him, or would my house and presents be more perfectly prepared?
So back to my Christmas lights, did I take them down the day after Christmas as well? No, I will do so after we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. Most people assume that these 12 days are before Christmas, but the 12 liturgical days of Christmas are actually between Christmas and the celebration of Epiphany on January 6. Although most of our nativities include the wise men, this visit did not occur until a date after Jesus' birth. In Mexican culture, children receive gifts from the three wise men on Epiphany in addition to presents on Christmas Eve. So rather than using the days after Christmas to simply clean up the mess we have made through Christmas, we are going to continue to celebrate the birth that changed humanity forever.
More than taking this as a history lesson, I hope we can instead look at how we celebrate the birth of Christ. Every year I tell myself to do things earlier and to not get stressed out. But again, I am in the lines on Christmas Eve. I guess God knows me and knew I needed these 12 additional days to really celebrate Him. So this year I have decided to take these 12 days of Christmas and really celebrate who Jesus is in my life and the life of my family.
How can we serve others during this time and show how the birth of the baby in the manger has changed our hearts? Let’s continue to visit those in nursing homes, this time, to talk with them. Let’s make our neighbors’ days brighter by blessing them with baked goods. Let’s look to what our children need—our time in playing the board games we got them for Christmas and helping them learn to ride and play with the toys that we gave them from Christmas. No matter if you celebrate the liturgical calendar or not, I pray that these 12 days and the following year, we can continue the celebration of joy in our hearts over the birth of Christ and the redemption He brings.
Kasey Carty Jordan is a former missionary to China and currently serves in youth ministry with her husband Kurt at their Catholic parish. The Jordans reside in Monticello with their seven children.