Christmas, the shortest season of the liturgical year, begins on the first stroke of December 25 and ends twelve days later, at midnight on January 5, Epiphany Eve. This season celebrates the birth of Jesus — born in the company of animals and angels, shepherds and kings, the young and the old, the wise and the foolish.
The Longest and Shortest Season
In the commercial world, the Christmas season has a long youth and a short old-age: born in mid-autumn, weaned the day after Thanksgiving, and dead by the close of the New Year’s Eve sales.
In the church calendar, Christmas is the shortest season of the year. It begins on the first stroke of December 25 and ends twelve days later, at midnight on January 5, Epiphany Eve.
David and I like to give our Christmases a longer, more robust retirement. Our tree usually stays up well into the Epiphany season, and our holiday cards have been known to appear in friends’ mailboxes on the very cusp of Lent.
I like the Budweiser holiday commercials. I like the big horses, the big old fire truck, the big fir tree, the snow, the bridge, the country road. A moment of peace and beauty. God bless them, those commercials aren’t even trying to get me to have a beer.
I’m less fond of commercials about the perfect present, given and received. Teasers that show a gleaming new car with a bow on top as the perfect way to show one’s love to the spouse (and one’s wealth to the neighbors). Tear-jerkers suggesting a string of diamonds as the perfect expression of enduring love.
My own presents – given and received – aren’t perfect. I don’t know anyone well enough to give them the perfect gift. I only hope a glimmer of goodwill clings to my offerings, adds a little extra shine, wins them a kind reception.
And when I open a present, I only hope for the grace to receive the gift in the same spirit I’d like my own received, and for the heart to accept what it means to be singularly human. Along with everyone else.
One year, David gave me a book of Roz Chast cartoons and an odd, disturbing pendant he found on a Goth web site: a dragon, alive, evil, and triumphant, coiled from top to bottom around a St. George cross.
A gift that made me laugh. And a gift that made me uncomfortable, then started me puzzling about the nature of faith and fable, and the intertwining of good and evil.
Well, okay, maybe David does know me, just a scratch or two below the surface.
Here’s wishing you joy in the New Year, and new adventures, and many chance meetings on the road.
P.S. You can browse through all our prayers and reflections for Christmas from the sidebar on the right, or by choosing Christmas from the All Seasons dropdown in the menu bar above.