Every year the same thing happens. Once Christmas week arrives, the profane calendar stops. No more Thursday or Friday, just Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The effect lasts until about New Year when we return again to the rhythms of the sun and the times and seasons bequeathed to us by the Romans. This is why marking sacred time is so important, not because we are fundamentalists who despise the secular calendar but because we are Christians who need to find some way to extricate ourselves from its utter dominance. Christmastime offers a glimpse of how this works.
Just as Advent is not Christmas, Christmas is also not just Christmas Day. First there is the Octave of Christmas, the eight consecutive days from Christmas on which the liturgy in the high churches remains the same. This of course relates to the eighth day after Jesus’ birth and his presentation at the temple. Then there is Christmastide which for some traditions lasts for twelve days. When we rush to haul down our Christmas decorations (which we probably put up too early), we are perhaps missing the possibilities inherent in keeping the whole season, not in the sense of the intense highs of Christmas itself, but in a continuing quiet contemplation of the miracle of the Condescension.
Scripture helps reveal this miracle: “The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations” (Isaiah 52:1), for which we “sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things” (Psalm 98:1). We believe that “long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Hebrews 1:1). He is the Word “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . in him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:1,4); “His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come” (The Living Christ).
For probably nothing else does time stop the way it does at Christmas. We should try to preserve it for a few days longer.
The Mormon Lectionary Project: Christmas III
O Holy One, heavenly angels spoke to earthly shepherds and eternity entered time in the child of Bethlehem. Through the telling of the Christmas story, let our temporal lives be caught up in the eternal in that same child, that we might join shepherds and all the heavenly host in praising the coming of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Amen.