Today, in celebrating the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Church concludes the twenty days of this year’s Christmas Season. The Church concludes. The Church. Nearly everyone else in America moved on from Christmas a while ago. It was early on December 26th – shortly after the morning Mass – that I heard the news anchors on television talk about taking down the family Christmas tree and advising their audience on the proper eco-friendly method of disposing them. There were no more Christmas carols on the radio, regular programming had resumed. It was a regular work day for a lot of people. And I still remember my amazement when I heard one of my relatives proudly describe, last year, how she had removed all of her Christmas decorations: down, packed up, and put away, before noon that Christmas day. Christmas Day, really!
As far as Christmas is concerned, the gaze of our society is directed ahead, not behind. From that perspective, there are only 340ish more days until next Christmas. Looking back to the fall of 2018, everyone, including me, has been swept along, enticed and prodded into a rush, rush frenzy of preparation for the big day. So much so, that any kind of reflective Advent preparation has become practically impossible. Rush, rush until December 24th or 25th – and then, done – in many cases thankfully done from sheer exhaustion. My intention in all of this is not to harangue, but it is to question just how thoroughly we Catholics have been swallowed up by the secular culture regarding the way Christmas is celebrated. Just how much have we allowed our celebration of the Incarnation of Christ to be taken over and assimilated by the dictates of entities and forces outside of our Catholic faith?
In the liturgical year, the Church sets aside about three weeks for all Catholics to reflect more deeply and more directly on the love of God in the gift of His Son’s Incarnation. The Church probably doesn’t intend that we spend every waking moment in those three weeks just contemplating the infant Jesus, but it likely would recommend that at least we not be so quick to return to our normal schedule of life. Christmas, and the joy of Christmas, is meant to be a celebration that lasts awhile. Rather than just a one-day festival, Christmas is designed to be a season of happiness and joy that allows us a glimpse of the eternal joy that God intends for us in Heaven. Today is the conclusion of the Christmas season. It’ll be another year until we get the chance to try this again and maybe make a few adjustments that’ll permit the good Christmas times to roll for more than just one day.
Have a blessed final Christmas day and a grace-filled beginning to Ordinary Time!