The music stops. The lights fade. The trees come down. Unwanted gifts get returned.
That’s what happens now that Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning have passed. That’s what happens everywhere but the church. The church continues on in its lonely celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord.
While the Christmas themed candy and decorations go on sale in stores, the church is just beginning its twelve day feast in celebration of the Nativity! Not with pear tree dwelling partridges, golden rings, leaping lords, or piping pipers but with the Word made Flesh, the body and blood of Christ given for the forgiveness of sins. The church joins with the angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven in celebrating the coming of Emmanuel in the flesh.
The world looks on and laughs, “Don’t they know Christmas is over?” “How can they celebrate Christmas without gifts?” “Feast of the Nativity? Doesn’t look like much of a feast to me.”
The world gets it wrong. It fails to see that Christmas is the celebration of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. That Word made Flesh still dwells among us in His gifts! No, the gifts don’t sit nicely waiting under a tree to be opened. The gifts that were won on the Good Friday Tree are delivered directly to you, freely! The old Adam is daily drowned in your baptism. The words of absolution are delivered directly into your ear. The Christmas feast of the body and blood of Christ are placed into your mouth.
But the church’s Christmas celebration doesn’t stop after this twelve day feast either! In the Nicene Creed, we continue confessing that Jesus Christ “for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” At the beginning of the Divine Service, we join in the Christmas song of the angels, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” The Word is delivered into our ears in absolution and in the lectionary readings. Your mouth becomes a manger, the place where Christ is, as His body and blood under the bread and wine are placed into your mouth.
That’s the church year! All the seasons run together. We continue praying the Advent prayer of “Come, Lord Jesus.” Those prayers are answered when He comes and is revealed in His gifts. He has mercy upon His people, in the forgiveness of sins won for us on the cross. His gifts enliven us to serve our neighbor.
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas throughout this twelve day feast! Merry Christmas whenever you sing the Gloria in Excelsis and say the Creed! Merry Christmas as the Word made Flesh is placed into your mouth at the communion rail! Merry Christmas as you receive the Lord’s Gifts, all year round!
This article by Jonathan Kohlmeier orginally appeared on the Higher Things - Dare to be Lutheran website. Jonathan Kohlmeier is a member of Mount Zion Lutheran Church in Greenfield, WI and the IT Assistant for Higher Things. His favorite Christmas hymn is the From Above conference hymn, Of the Father's Love Begotten.