Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Continuing On

(This is another version of something I wrote in 2011)

For Jesus' followers, citizens of a different country as we are, Christmas didn't mark the end of Advent  so much as the start of "Christmastide". We have our own calendar you know, set up to run us through the words and deeds of Jesus year after year so that, more and more, we breathe his atmosphere -- think like he thinks, react as he would react.

For most people the existence of this calendar only surfaces in our brains on Christmas and Easter, making the period we're in right now just that nice vacation time when we eat leftovers, play video games, and wait for New Years Day. The only reminder that something Noel-like may still be going on is that odd little song about there being "12 Days of Christmas."

But the Christian calendar reminds us that there is indeed something still happening, something every bit as revolutionary as the things we talked about during Advent. "The Christmas season, or Christmastide, is not about one feast day," Joan Chittister tells us. "It is a series of feasts that embed in us a kind of refracted glory, the underpinnings, the other pieces of the mosaic that complete the feast itself... Christmas -- the light that shone upon a manger -- was also, the ancients knew, the light that led them on beyond it as well," (The Liturgical Year, pg. 90).

During these 12 days several points from the Christian saga are relived. Interestingly, on the day after Christmas, Stephen, the first martyr is remembered. On the fourth day, the slaughter of Bethlehem's little children is commemorated. They are sometimes thought of as "proto-martyrs" -- killed for they're tenuous association with the Messiah before his movement fairly got started. 

The 12 days lead up to "Epiphany" or "Theophany" as Orthodox Christians call it. This day marks the visit of the three Magi, revealing the Messiah to the non-Jewish world. The Orthodox also celebrate Christ's baptism on that day, when his status as second person of the Trinity was revealed to the world.

Like the humble peasant girl who bore Jesus last week, let us, "commit these things to memory and consider them carefully," (Gospel of Luke, chapter 2 verse 19, CEB).

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