I am always amazed at how quickly the the twelve days of Christmas fly by. I am not unaware that many people don’t care. Or that the twelve days are used as a countdown to December 25 with sales and promotions all trying to get people to buy more for that first day of Christmas.
In the stores, on the radio and television stations and internet sites, not many care about Christmas after the 25th of December. Oh, there are sales galore, but Valentine’s hearts and flowers are already seen and the next push for sales. Christmas becomes not so much a season as an exercise in surviving too many parties, too many crowds, too much food and drink and often too much money spent on things that do not matter and are easily broken and forgotten
As a pastor, the time leading up to December 25 is filled with year end meetings, extra worship planning, a few more services and events for the church. There are more parties and open houses than I could ever hope to attend and this year, in the midst of Advent, Andrew and I had the joy of celebrating the marriage of one of our children in California. The Advent season itself was shorter, just three weeks, with the fourth Sunday of Advent also being Christmas eve.
All of that is a way of explaining why the twelve days of Christmas are precious to me. I try to savor them, each day. In years past, FAR past, the twelve days were filled with the parties and visits and meals and general “gaiety” we now celebrate prior to December 25. Advent at that time was a period for fasting and penitence and reflection on the incarnation, of God’s gift in Christ. The twelfth day of Christmas is the transition into Epiphany on January 6 (the visitation of the magi, the wise men and a season of celebrating that God is manifest to humanity, ALL of humanity.)
For those who love trivia, many Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas day on January 7 because aligns with the old Julian calendar and in a dozen or so countries that is a day off and a holiday. I won’t go into detail as it has to do with the switch in calendars from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.
So the Feast of the Epiphany in the Western is tomorrow on January 6. Epiphany, as a holiday is to celebrate the manifestation of the Christ to the Gentiles (or to all people and all nations). As a word, it means a revelation or an insight. In the midst of the twelve days what has been revealed to me? What insight have gained from the celebration of Christmas?
A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook to honor the visitation of the Magi. It is from the Catacombs in Rome, specifically of Priscilla.
This was probably done in the 2nd century. From the earliest days, this event, of magi, wise ones, star gazers from the east was an important event to remember. Christianity has in its beginnings an understanding that Emmanuel, God-with-us is not an exclusive event or for just a few. Christ came for all, that all might experience the love and grace of God.
So on this twelfth day of Christmas, I am seeking insight and wisdom on how God’s love can be made real and true in my life and spirit. I am looking for God’s presence in the word and like Mary, I am pondering all of these things in my heart. Merry Christmas and may Epiphany bring us all new insight and a revelation of God in our midst.