I love Advent and I love Christmas. Not just December 25th, but the whole season. And I don’t mean the season that begins when ABC Family starts broadcasting holiday movies and ends promptly on Christmas Day. No, that’s Advent. I mean Christmas, the season that starts on Christmas Day and runs until Epiphany (the Twelve Days of Christmas, anyone?).
I’m probably the only person in modern America that still wants to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, that wants to eagerly look forward to the day and then live in that season for twelve full days. Most of us want to skip everything in November and jump right to Christmas day immediately after Halloween and then jump from Christmas to whatever is next as soon as the gifts are opened.
But I’m slow. I like to linger. I like to sit in the wonder of Christmas, like the Parker family at the end of A Christmas Story. That’s easier for me to do after Christmas than during Advent, with everything that gets added in to this season. During the liturgical Christmas season, I can sit with the peace of Christ, resting in the moment in human history that was closest to the peace we had in the garden of Eden.
Lately, I’ve started to notice the words associated with Christmas decorations being sold and put up in people’s homes. Joy. Peace. Love. Hope. Occasionally, Believe. Maybe Grace. Never Mercy. Forgiveness. Rescue.
These are the words we sometimes forget in the hubbub and excitement associated with the holiday season. Rightly, we celebrate the joy and hope that were born into our world with the baby Jesus. But sometimes I need to remember why I have joy and hope. I need to remember that God didn’t send his son into our world because he wanted to; no, he sent him to redeem his people. He sent him to die for the sins of his people. His birth is the beginning of the road to the cross and the empty grave.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting you should be sitting in the glow of your Christmas tree, basking in the grief of Lent and Good Friday. On the contrary, the joy of Jesus’ birth is so much sweeter, so much richer, when viewed in context with its ultimate purpose. Love is defined by sacrifice. Jesus says that “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The truest, deepest of loves is the love that gives to someone else. Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice for us, and the sacrifice began that day, humbly swaddled in a manger because the guest room was full.
So, these Twelve Days of Christmas, I will be meditating on what my true love gave to me: a redemptive, loving savior.