Happy 6th day of Christmas everyone.
I have been meditating this week on the “other side” of Christmas.
When our foremothers and forefathers of the Christian faith designed the holy calendar, they made some opulent choices when it came to Christmas. Think about it. There are four weeks dedicated to Advent leading up to Christmas day. Then, like an offensive linemen at an all-you-can-eat dessert bar, they dedicated 12 more days of meditation ending in the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th.
Why would they devote two of the largest swaths of calendar real estate to the Nativity story?
Certainly it is partially because the Incarnation, the God-With-Us reality is simply that important. In our modern busyness, most don’t even acknowledge anymore that the Emmanuel reflection does not end on December 25th. They intended it to stick with us. A 12 day divine afterglow.
That still doesn’t answer the question, “Why two seasons, back to back… first Advent and then 12 Days of Christmas?”
Here is my thought this year. It is not a comprehensive thought, but it is where my meditation has led me.
The 4 weeks of Advent are very hopeful, joy-filled and peace-proclaiming, just as the candles remind us. It is a time of Angels, heavenly voices, supernatural encounters, and miraculous pregnancies. That is some pretty inspirational stuff. Sure there is that “no room at the end” downer, but besides that, it is the stuff of Sunday school pageants (come to think of it…)
But what about after that?
What about after… the shepherds are back on the hillside, the angels have dispersed and the divine-conversations have ended?
What was left on the days after Christmas?
This is the part that we don’t often talk about. These are the parts that get forgotten in our Nativity plays.
Maybe, instead of Lords a-Leaping and Golden Rings, the 12 days of Christmas were set aside for us to remember what happened on the other side of Christmas.
On the other side of Christmas there is a peasant family with an illegitimate child trying to reenter a judgmental culture. How many friends would they lose? How many whispers and glances would they need to endure? Would Mary be treated like a prostitute when she went to the market? How much work would go to other carpenters whom clients now “suddenly prefer”?
On the other side of Christmas there is a coming genocide like a foul stank in the air (Matthew 2:16-18). A whole generation wiped from the unwritten history books… an entire nation of inconsolable mothers, wailing in the night… Power exerting unbelievable violence over a marginalized people group.
On the other side of Christmas there is a refugee family running from that power and violence. Did they have more than the clothes on their backs? Leaving the only land they had ever known, the land of their forefathers and foremothers… crossing to a foreign land, just hoping that some new government would accept them, protect them. The
exhaustion, fear and fragility the must have felt.
The Christmas story is not all about stars, angels and miracles. It is also about marginalization, violence and refugees.
Maybe this is what the 12 days are asking us to remember.
Maybe we are also supposed to notice that the 21st century is not that different from the 1st.