The last night of Christmas break when I was a boy was hard, a bit depressing, somewhat exciting. There were always books I had wanted to read, work that I had thought would get done, and games that were not played. Yet the tree was dry and the cupboard (long) emptied of holiday treats. After most excellent jollifications, the time had come to go back to the regular schedule.
The Old Order Changes and the Sin of Elves
This was not bad, of course. I was blessed in my childhood and normal time was good. If I was honest, and Dad made sure we were, then we knew that enough was enough. Dad understood the idea of “sufficient.” Once I met a person who loved Christmas too much and when I visited, her tree was cobwebby and the decorations needed dusting. The cat had been up the tree one too many times and most of the decorations, manufactured for a moment, had become very worn, the gilding fading badly. They were up past their time and the decorations had gone from splendid to tawdry. In March, one mildly may look forward to the Holiday season (Easter first!), but for this to occur, the old Hols must die and a good clearing up occur. The old Holiday must end for the new Holiday to come.
I felt this as a boy. When the decorations went down, we took the chance to clean and everything seemed renewed and spacious. Our normal decorations, stored over the Hols, seemed new, like old friends returning. The crèche was gone, but old family china returned.
Some traditional Christians keep some Christmas decor until Candlemas, and this is wonderful, but at some point, the normal must return or the special will degenerate to the normal. If one eats feast food every day, then one will need new feast food. A change, even a good and necessary one, is a letting go that can be hard if the thing being let go was good.
We must recall the sin of Tolkien’s elves. They would never fight for the most evil Sauron, but they did cling to some old good past their time. They did not wish the old ways to change and so they made the old ways a cause of decay and sin. What one day was ours by right, the next day be inappropriate. The last day of vacation is the last day sleeping in is not lazy!
New Light, Sun Light, Holy Days to Come
Epiphany is upon us and Christmas is almost past. Tonight as of old, we will read Shakespeare, eat some Christmas foods, and celebrate a final toast with friends. If nothing else, we will anticipate the increase of our experiences from the home and parish centered Christmas time to the anyone and everyone focus of Epiphany.
Christmas reveals Christ to the cosmos, but Epiphany takes that promise and makes it real. The elderly Simeon and Anna find him in the Temple. Wisemen worship Him. He is revealed as the Son of God in the waters of Baptism. These are the stories the Church associates with Epiphany: Christ is here, see Him for Who He is!
For those of us who get a bit of break from our normal routine (and would we all did!), then we return to the bigger world of work and community. We open our doors and go forth to the cosmos: looking for Christ to be revealed all around us, even from a Nazarene!
My dad used to say: “All good things must come to an end.” He was right, because feasting is good for a season, but even with (some!) moderation cannot continue. Normal time calls us back and we are reminded the forever Holiday is not yet. Christmas was, is, and will be again.
Christ is born!