Is Christmas really over? Maybe not.
The Boxing Day sales are here! That means Christmas is over ... or does it? Jo-anne Brown suggests that the spirit of Christmas can be celebrated all year round.
BY JO-ANNE BROWN
It’s Boxing Day, and some people are out and about, already purchasing gifts and packaging for next Christmas!
Hot cross buns have started appearing on supermarket shelves, and will soon be followed by Easter eggs.
And in July, some stores generously stock Christmas goodies for all those who long for a winter Christmas and choose to celebrate Christmas in July. Surprisingly quickly, it seems, it’s October and Christmas decorations are vying for attention amongst Halloween costumes.
There are those who adamantly refuse to consume hot cross buns before Good Friday, and others who eagerly tuck in at any time. Just as there are those who cannot even start thinking about Christmas trees, gifts or decorations until December, while some people have been preparing all year.
Are seasons such as Easter and Christmas as mixed up as our climatic seasons are? Or is there something in these spiritually inspired seasons that does indeed invite us to celebrate, or at least remember and rejoice, all year round?
What is the underlying meaning of celebrations about Christmas? What is it about an event that happened over 2000 years ago that still calls us to celebrate in the myriad ways we do?
Reflection of love
When we look at Christmas in particular, there really are good reasons to celebrate all year round. The primary focus of Christmas is the reality of God’s love for us, shown in the physical birth of Jesus, who is God’s son.
This birth, promised for millennia, was God’s way of showing his desire to be known, to be seen, and to be present in a very tangible way. Before Jesus was born as a human baby, it was difficult for people to really grasp who God was, and to understand what God says about love, justice and grace.
It’s relatively easy to be cynical about the commercialism of Christmas (and other spiritually inspired celebrations), yet underneath everything, love draws together all our ways of celebrating it.
“When we look at Christmas … there really are good reasons to celebrate all year round.”
Whatever our sense of the spiritual or our faith experiences, a season that focuses on love, connection with others and giving seems to fulfil a deep need. Yes, it is sometimes idealised, which creates expectations and pressure, and may lead to disappointment when what we experience is not what is advertised in glossy department store catalogues.
But the very heart of Christmas, however it is celebrated, is a reminder that God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. This truth doesn’t change whether it is snowing or storming, or whether Easter eggs or Christmas puddings are on the shelves.
This truth doesn’t change, even when there is more conflict than a sense of loving connection in our families. Even when we feel alone and disconnected from people who care about us, the fundamental truth of Christmas is that we are loved, and God is with us.
Whether our celebrations are huge or minimal, in December or July, with lavish gifts or no gifts at all, our deepest need is to know we are loved. And God’s deepest desire has always been for each of us to know God is with us and loves us.
“The fundamental truth of Christmas is that we are loved, and God is with us.”
Perhaps the heart of the season (whenever it is) is not the ways we celebrate Christmas with tangible things, but how we celebrate love. How do we live our ordinary everyday lives with love? How do we seek connections and build relationships with others? How do we choose to be generous and giving, especially when we ourselves may be struggling with having enough?
Choosing to celebrate Christmas throughout the year invites us to live lives of loving connection and giving – all year round!