Pastoral Series

Prayer: The Days of Christmas

My family: we’re the oddballs who steadfastly refuse to whisk away all signs of Christmas on the 26th. The “twelve days of Christmas” isn’t just a kooky song. It’s a historic observance of the first days of the life of Jesus – culminating in Epiphany, January 6, the traditional date on which the magi appeared with their gifts.

I love the strange, lovely, quirky days right after Christmas. Yes, there’s cleaning up to do, and maybe some exchanging of sweaters that were too small. Maybe like me you’re in the office some, but unless you’re a year-end tax and investment professional, it’s not the most productive time.

I try to imagine the days right after Jesus’ birth. Adjustments, nights and days mixed up, crying, anxiety, cooing, delight, visits, more adjustments, Mary’s physical soreness and early recovery.

I think of Howard Thurman’s lovely poem: “When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock, The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among people, To make music in the heart.”

If Christmas is a real thing, if Christmas matters, if you warm up to ideas like “keeping Christ in Christmas” or “Jesus is the reason for the season,” then we’re not done December 25. Our work has just begun. Nothing is ever the same for parents like Mary and Joseph – and for those of us welcoming Christ into the world, everything changes. We have our tasks before us.

So use these days of Christmas, all twelve of them (and beyond!) to pray, to reflect, to ponder and wonder, to ask God what to do next, how to live as if Jesus really has been born, as if God really is reality in our world and lives.

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