The Days After Christmas

The Days After Christmas December 26, 2021

The days after Christmas occupy a strange place on the calendar – not quite a let-down but certainly a blank space. Even if you don’t go to church often or follow the liturgical calendar, our culture is so saturated with Christmas that December 26th brings a certain nervous, empty energy. What does it mean now that it’s behind us? What does the birth of Jesus show us after the observation has passed?

The four weeks of Advent emphasize hope, peace, love and joy. They correspond to remembrance of the people of God, the prophets, John the Baptist and Mary, respectively. You’ll find many pastors doing the difficult task of honoring those themes while also recognizing that we’re in a time where they are often in short supply. Yet the people of 1st century Roman Judea didn’t have much to hope for either. Jesus came for them and comes for us too, regardless of what else is going on in our lives or in the world. If we have little to hold on to, we can hold on to him.

This year is my first with my newborn child, which has certainly shifted my perspective on the Nativity. I’m amazed with how Mary and Joseph managed the mental load of raising the Christ child. My partner and I are barely keeping sane with the responsibility of making sure one child is healthy and happy, and he’s a genial baby at that. Imagine the added stress of knowing that baby was the Anointed One of God!

Jesus may have been studying among the teachers in the Temple as a boy, but before that he was still an infant. That our God spent time in that vulnerable state is a comfort and a reminder of how deep God’s love runs. It seems there is something there which can be taken with us. If God could show us such a vulnerable face, perhaps it’s okay for us to be vulnerable too. It’s okay to share our pain and let others help us hold our burdens. And for those of us with joy to spare, we have an additional responsibility to let that be shared too.

At its best, the Christmas season is a gentle nudge in the right direction, a strengthened impulse toward appreciating those close to us and goodwill to those distant from us. Buoyed by holiday optimism, we head into the new year with resolutions to do better, live better, be more generous… resolutions that usually peter out by late January. But the Nativity reminds us that earth-shaking changes can begin in a humble and lowly manger. In fact, it is usually the humble and lowly places where God begins the most far-reaching works. Maybe this year it’s good enough to resolve that we do just a little better every day, both in our hearts and our practice.

To love our enemies, remain faithful to our friends, and to stay connected with God in admitting failures and celebrating successes – that is what I’m taking from Christmas this year.

About M.P. Antoine
I think about God stuff and write fiction, in that order. You can read more about the author here.

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