Why I’m Still Holding onto Christmas

While others have been making — and maybe even already breaking — new year’s resolutions or choosing their one word for 2014, I’m still  holding onto Christmas. After all, it was only yesterday at church that our magi finally arrived at the nativity scene in front of the sanctuary. At home, our nativity scene is still in place for today to mark Epiphany,  and I might just leave it up a while longer.

Photo credit Free Digital Photos at www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

photo courtesy of franky242, freedigitalphotos.net

And why not? It may well be that Jesus’ birth was not actually at this time of year at all. The gospel of Luke includes shepherds in the fields with their sheep (Luke 2:8) which would have been more likely in spring, and a rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter also in the spring may have been the star sign observed by the magi.

We had a fascinating guest speaker yesterday (aka my husband, Gary, who is a New Testament scholar and teacher) who explained this in detail and has posted a simplified version here. He suggested that he might even celebrate the birth of Jesus later in May without all the hoopla that tends to surround Christmas in December. After his sermon, several people said they might join him!

And why not? Jesus is God-with-us always — in December, in May, and at any time of year, in times of celebration and in hardship. God in Jesus Christ comes to us at the traditional Christmas time and any time.

One of the most well-known Christmas carols is Joy to the World by Isaac Watts:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her king!

But did you know that these words were not originally written for Christmas? They’re based on Psalm 98 and were part of a collection of hymns that Isaac Watts wrote as an “imitation” of the Psalms. In our church hymnal, Joy to the World is not grouped together with O Come All Ye Faithful and other Christmas carols, but appears in the section Proclaiming: Kingdom. They’re words for Christmas and for the rest of the year too.

So for now I’m going to hold onto Christmas — not so much the nativity scene that will eventually be packed away for next year, but continuing to celebrate Jesus as God-with-us, continuing to proclaim God’s reign.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns…
No more let sins and sorrows grow…
He rules the world with truth and grace…



Categories: Spiritual Practice

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16 replies

  1. My Aunt Dottie Murray had a string of the old fashioned Christmas lights that she always turned on at dark year round. “We need to keep a little Christmas always in our hearts ” she would say. It made an abiding impression. It resonates with the theme of your blog. Be blessed!

    • Thank you for sharing – what a beautiful practice and saying from your aunt. I’ll remember that now too! And thank you for your blessing – may it return to you also.

  2. For the record, I still have my Christmas tree and my manger scene set-up! lol

    • Proving that yes, we can celebrate Christmas with New Year’s and at any time of the year. I figure I’ll be ready to put my nativity scene away on the weekend though….

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this, April!

    I wish I had been there for the sermon, but I might possibly stay on ‘retreat’ for the rest of Epiphany week before I come back. (I’m still trying to pray and work through some things in this refreshing atmosphere,now after finally getting over the monster flu!). I like that Epiphany week has the revelation theme as a focus.

    Coptic Christians have their big Christmas tomorrow, and the EO churches had their big Christmas yesterday….so…a Merry Christmas and happy Epiphany week to you!

    I wonder what date in May Gary is referring to, for Christmas?

    Joy to the world for 2014!

    • (Just found May 27 🙂 )

      • While I cited the date as May 27 in the Facebook post, I have since noticed that there is more support for May 29 being the date of the first conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and that is the date I included in the sermon.

    • Thanks – the audio of Gary’s sermon should be online at emmanuelmennonite.com later this week, so you could listen to that if you’d like. Glad to hear that you are being refreshed. Joy and peace to you!

  4. Interesting reflections. I’ve found myself thinking about Advent & Christmas this year, and reflecting that if we truly observed Advent as a waiting & preparation time, we’d be ready to celebrate Christmas right through to Epiphany and beyond. But that is out of synch with culture, which starts ‘celebrating’ Christmas in early November, and then switches gears on the 26th already – out with Christmas and on to Boxing Day sales, New Year’s Eve festivities and Valentines Day… I think I need to keep Christmas alive in my spirit at least to Epiphany and beyond.

    Thanks again, April, for good food for thought, and all the best in 2014.

    • Thanks, Wendy – I appreciate your observation about the cultural rhythm of Christmas starting early and ending immediately after the 25th. It seems to be a consumer model driven by buying for Christmas and then moving on to Boxing Day sales, although this year I noticed that so called Boxing Day sales started even before Christmas. The church rhythm of Advent, then Christmas to Epiphany and beyond helps me to focus in a different way. May Christmas remain alive in your spirit.

  5. Thanks for this April. I too am still holding on to that “Christmas feeling”, and have not yet taken down my tree as I am still in a celebratory mood.

    • Thanks, Michael, God with us is such a great message for Christmas eve when Charles Spurgeon preached it, for the end of the year when you posted the video, for Epiphany when I published this post, for well into the new year when I’m (finally!) responding, and any time. As Jesus himself says, “you can be sure that I am always with you to the very end” (Mathew 28:20).

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