On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping
Frederic Austin, 1909
Merry Christmas! on this eleventh day of Christmastide.
As I've said before elsewhere, this has been a holiday season unlike any other I've experienced. I won't restate those reasons here; but one of the reasons this holiday season has been so different is because of various posts and/or comments I've seen on Facebook. I'm not talking about politics or weird news stories that show up or any of that. Instead, I have been taken by surprise at how many comments I've seen from people who apparently had no idea that the 12 Days of Christmas began on Christmas Day.
I can't remember a time when it seemed to me that so many people were unaware of this fact. To make matters worse, most of those comments were made by people on any number of clergy posts. At one point I asked myself, “What are we (clergy) doing wrong that even our Facebook friends don't know Christmas Day is the first day of the season?”
With this past Monday being a holiday, Joelene and I took the opportunity to run some errands. One of the things we did was exchange a gift that was too small for a proper size and to pick up a couple of gifts for the Epiphany party this coming Friday night. We also needed to buy wrapping paper since that was an item we opted to leave behind in the move. The wrapping paper and all things Christmas had been moved to the back corner of the store as the employees were busy cleaning out every reminder of Christmas and making room for their Easter displays.
It's no wonder people don't know the Christmas season begins on December 25 and runs through January 5 what with the stores removing decorations as fast as they can to begin prepping for the spring candy-fest that is still just over three months away. It's not only the stores. A house I pass every day really gets into holiday lights – I first noticed them at Halloween. They even go to the trouble of synchronizing their lights to music played on 89.5 FM. It's actually kind of fun to watch. But even that holiday light show has come down.
The Church year, though, gives us a different rhythm. Instead of frantically clearing out and cleaning up from the most recent holiday to begin prepping for the next one on the horizon, the Church year asks us to sit with the season for a time. Advent gives us a slow, methodical time of preparation. Christmas is a 12-day celebration of the arrival of God Incarnate. Epiphany is a time for us to make known to the world what we witnessed during Christmas. Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and the Season after Pentecost all have their own focal points.
This is the genius and the blessing of the Church year – that it allows us to step back from how the world thinks things should be run to seeing another way. It really is a counter-cultural system.
As we move into 2017, maybe we should resolve to pay more attention to the rhythms and cycles of the Church year and pay less attention to the frenetic pace of a world focused on what's next.