Epiphany has come and gone, and this morning I began the process of saying goodbye to Christmas for another year. All the decorations have been packed up and are waiting to be put back in the attic. The nativity scene from our front lawn is back in the garage. The tree is still up because my kids begged me to wait till they got home from school so they could help take the ornaments off – so in the next few hours it will once again be bare and ready to be taken out. (It will be saved, however, because we have a tradition in our family to take the trunk of the tree and make a cross of it on Good Friday.)
I’m always a little sad to say goodbye to Christmas. I know there are many people who can only stand the decor for so long before they want their house back, but not me or the rest of my family – perhaps it’s because we wait until Advent starts to begin decorating and don’t put a tree up until after the 15th so we’re not sick of it by the 26th. I love Christmas.
The “powers that be” who decided when the Church should celebrate the Feast of the Nativity really knew what they were doing for us Americans. It is a bright spot of life at the beginning of our cold dark winter. Christmas lights help us find some joy in the early dark nights. Festive decorations bring smiles to children’s faces and bring out the child in the rest of us. We “oh and ah” over little ones being donkeys and sheep in church Christmas pageants, and I dare say that even the most spiritually jaded find some awe in a candlelight rendition of “Silent Night.” Of course Christmas doesn’t come in the winter for everyone, for some it falls in the summer, so the symbolism of light and darkness don’t really apply – but where I live they certainly do.
So as I put the decorations away, as I pack away the ornaments my kids have made that mark their childhood, I am very conscious of the passing of time. I am also cognizant of the fact that our front lawn and living room will be darker places in the absence of those tiny lights on the trees. The lights will NOT be shining in the darkness tonight.
But of course THE Light shines in the darkness, as it always has and always will. The Feast of the Nativity and the Christmas season are a tiny part of our year, but the Light the season represents is “with us” each moment our whole lives through. Without all the decor, I just might have to look harder to find it…
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:5
***addendum: One of the reasons why worship is SO important, so VITAL to our lives as Christians, is that it gives us The Light. The Word and Sacraments are present gifts of the Light given for us. Jesus IS the Word, is IN the sacraments, and where two or three are gathered together. So one place I KNOW I won’t have to look hard to find The Light is in worship.