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Christmas over?

By: Ken Winter, Auburn Presbyterian
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By the time you read this, Christmas will have passed. Oddly, the day after Christmas is often as hectic as any day before the holiday. People rush to stores to exchange gifts (wrong size? wrong color? What were they thinking?), or to take advantage of after-Christmas sales as merchants try to bring in the money that keeps their businesses alive for another year. In my family, if on Christmas Day everyone had gathered at our house, the day after Christmas we would immediately take down the tree decorations and take the tree out. Since it was still Christmas vacation for the kids, we had probably planned a short trip to some relatives’ home, and leaving the tree in our house unattended would be a terrible fire hazard. So Christmas could be “done” in a flash at our house. For many, the day after Christmas is a letdown. A lot of pastors feel “blue” after Christmas, just because of all the extra energy they’ve been putting out as part of their work in that season. Now it’s done, and the sustained adrenaline rush ends in an adrenaline crash. (Of course, you don’t have to be a pastor to feel letdown after Christmas. It happens to a lot of us—and sometimes, depression wells up even as Christmas approaches, because of the disappointments over expectations and hopes built up too high.) And on top of that, Christmas Day this year coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest (and darkest) day of the year. Anyone who is sensitive to a loss of sunlight (Seasonal Affective Disorder) could feel their worst at Christmas. OK, Christmas Day may be “done,” and we may be heaving a sigh of relief. But Christmas doesn’t have to be over. We don’t have to rush to “pack Jesus away.” A number of our Christian faith traditions follow a “church calendar” that indicates a season of Christmas. (Remember “The Twelve Days” song?) There’s a huge advantage in following that tradition. Instead of trying to cram everything into one day, we can more gently celebrate over a number of days. We can begin to think of the days following Christmas Day as living in the light of Christmas, when “the light that enlightens all people was coming into the world” (John 1:9). If Christmas is the celebration of God’s greatest gift to us, then every day thereafter could be a day to remember how much God loves us — and to live in, and by, that love. What “in the light of Christmas” activities might you enjoy? This year, my wife and I have been invited to a party to which we are encouraged to bring Christmas leftovers. (And don’t we all have a lot of those!) What a cool idea — no muss, no fuss — we can pay more attention to the people instead of to the preparation for yet another party. I am looking forward to that. How might you bring into daily conversations the difference God’s love (which we are thinking of especially at Christmas) has made in your life? For example: the after-Christmas sales (when people are looking for good deals) are an easy jump-off point to talk about “the best deal I ever got”— a new relationship with God, because of Jesus. And if you made a first-time faith commitment this year, then please tell someone how this Christmas has been way different for you. Merry Christmas — the whole year through! Ken Winter is the pastor at Auburn Presbyterian Church.