The idea of 12 days of Christmas annoys some people just as much as the song.
All the way back in 2016, my church decided it was time to begin our 21-day Daniel fast on the first Sunday of the month. Specifically this was Sunday, 3 January 2016. Welcome back from the holidays, folks; no doughnut for you.
“Really not appropriate to schedule a fast for a feast day,” I pointed out to one of my fellow church attendees.
- She. “Feast day? This is a feast day?”
- Me. “It’s still Christmas.”
- She. “Christmas was two Fridays ago.”
- Me. “Christmas began two Fridays ago. And ends tomorrow. It lasts 12 days, remember?”
- She. “What lasts 12 days?”
- Me. “Christmas. Remember the song? ‘On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…’ and each day the singer just kept getting more and more birds? ’Cause Christmas has 12 days.”
- She. “Who celebrates it for 12 days?”
- Me. “I celebrate it for 12 days. I’m still eating cookies.”
- She. “Well, you can do that if you like. I took the tree down the day after Christmas.”
- Me. “You mean the second day of Christmas.”
- She. [irritated scoff]
Tell many a Christian that today’s the 11th day of Christmas, and that’s the response you’ll get from them. The irritated scoff. Christmas ended last month. And good riddance. They were so done with the holiday once Christmas dinner was over. And if they weren’t, the hassle of returning Christmas gifts did it for ’em.
Like I said back in my advent article, a lot of people have adopted the mindset our popular culture foists upon ’em. To them, the Christmas season begins on Black Friday, ends 25 December, and the rest is just aftermath and cleanup. Put the decorations away as soon as possible, ’cause it’s time to concentrate on the new year. And the stores are already selling Valentine’s Day items. (“Already? Are you kidding me?”)
But if you’ve burnt out on Christmas, it’s because you’ve not really been celebrating Christmas. You’ve been celebrating the awful Mammonist substitute the stories peddle. Our churches unwittingly help ’em do it too. We perpetuate the idea of a one-day holiday, a frenzy of gifts and toys and events, and a slapped-on veneer of “Remember the reason for the season!”
In fact Christmas is primarily about how Christ the savior is born. If you’re doing Christmas correctly, and someone brings up the word “Christmas” after the 25th, that’s the mental image which should’ve immediately popped into your mind. Not decorations, toys, and obligations. Jesus has come. ’Cause if your first response is to scoff… you did it wrong.
Deficient in joy.
You might remember joy is one of the Spirit’s fruit. Joy’s a feeling of great happiness and pleasure. But among Christianists who don’t actually have real joy in their lives, in order to justify themselves and insist “We do so have fruit,” they’ve redefined joy to mean a state of well-being: It’s the ability to shove despair out of their minds, put up with anything, and psyche themselves into feeling okay about it. Even hope.
Pagans can do that too, y’know. It’s not really joy. It’s tolerance. They don’t enjoy their lives; they don’t rejoice at what they see. They deal with it. They put up with it. Sometimes patiently; sometimes with the help of alcohol and pills.
Either way, Christmas isn’t a time of comfort and joy to them. It’s something you gotta put up with, because our culture insists upon it. All the gaudy decorations. All the peppermint, cranberry, egg nog, or pumpkin-infused foods and drinks. Ditching the perfectly good music so we can listen to every popular musician test out their vocal range on “O Holy Night.” Ditching the perfectly good
And the reciprocity: They got you a gift, so you gotta get them one. They invited you to their Christmas party, so you gotta invite them to something. They sent you a card; gotta send one back. They sent you a fruitcake; gotta take your revenge with a flaming bag of poo, ’cause how dare they inflict that inedible doorstop upon you. The neighbors strung their Christmas lights; guess you gotta decorate too, lest you’re the only dark house on the street. Some shopkeeper mistakenly wished you a Happy Holidays instead of a Merry Christmas; time to set her straight.
It’s a time of testing the boundaries of one’s patience, so man are they glad it’s over.
So when I inform ’em it’s not over, they’re a little pissed at me. They go into denial: Christmas is over. We don’t do 12 days of Christmas anymore; that’s an old custom, or a Catholic custom. Christian history doesn’t get to define where Christmas falls on the calendar; we do, and our like-minded friends do, and the like-minded merchants do.
It exposes their lack of joy.
And love, and grace, and kindness, and other fruit of the Spirit. That stuff hasn’t been naturally pouring out of ’em all December. They were gritting their teeth and making nice, regardless of their frustration. They weren’t rejoicing at the coming of Christ, which reminds us of how Jesus came into our lives, and how Jesus is returning to set up his kingdom. That story, to them, is merely a story. And now that the 25th has passed, it’s time to put the nativity crêche back into its box, and put the box back into the back corner of the garage. And a merry “bah, humbug” to you.
If the Holy Spirit isn’t helping you generate genuine fruit, especially during advent and Christmas, start asking why. Ask him for help. Ask him to get rid of your bad attitudes and replace ’em with his good ones. Ask him how you should feel, how you should see things this time of year, how you should be the corrective to our culture’s weird behavior in December. He expects us to be salt and light to the world. Is that what we really are? Be honest.
You know those saps who say, “I wish it were Christmas all year round”? Some of ’em mean it only because they wish they’d receive Christmas presents all year round; ignore them. The rest of them wish it were so because they’ve actually experienced joy and grace.
Well, it’s not Christmas year-round, but it is Christmas 12 days. Including today and tomorrow. Have you experienced joy and grace? If so, share it. If not… talk to the Spirit.