It is January 2nd and therefore the official beginning of my hermitage. After all, the rest of society has gone back to “normal” but at my house, Christmas is still going strong.
What baffles me is not so much the fact that most of our culture doesn’t know about the Twelve Days of Christmas — it’s the fact that when they do find out it doesn’t seem to matter to them. The tree-down-for-good-luck-on-New-Years prevails despite the glorious dispensation that the merry-making may continue long after. It seems like people really do want Christmas to end.
And I understand that pine needles are a hassle and when you’re making resolutions it’s nice to have a cleaned up house. But I think that often there’s something more there. I think that often there’s a deeper reason why everybody is so desperate to ditch the season.
I think we are afraid of Christmas.
Not Advent. We aren’t afraid of preparing. We aren’t afraid of working. We aren’t afraid of getting ready.
But we are afraid of what comes once we’re ready. We are afraid of the things of eternity. We are afraid of Sundays. We are afraid of contemplation. We are afraid of prayer. We are afraid of connecting with people deeply. We are afraid of real recreation and leisure. We are afraid of unusual cheer. We are afraid of what in the world we do when there’s nothing left to prepare for. What do we do when the to-do list is complete? What do we do when the presents are opened and the food is eaten and we’re left lounging in the living room with our family?
What do we do when it’s actually Christmas?
Most people don’t like this question. Because it means getting in touch with ourselves, our deep selves. It means getting in touch with each other, with God. It means opening oneself to extraordinary Love. It means rest. But we feel useless when we rest. We need to be productive, and if not productive, we need to be mindlessly entertained. We can’t just rest. We can’t just Christmas.
So we put everything away quickly. We cover up the remnants of God incarnate because God incarnate challenges us. We cover up the remnants of eternity on Earth because eternity is scary. We like real time. We like control. Eternity and God and Christmas— all that, it means surrendering control. It means simply being. We are afraid of simply being. We are afraid of Love, at rest. We are afraid of the “Silent Night.”
But we don’t need to be afraid of the “Silent Night.” Rest, contemplation, leisure, tenderness, love— these things are the things of Christmas, of Heaven. They are our deepest soul desires. They are the reason we work, the reason we prepare. And if we have the courage to embrace them we will find our heart’s peace. So let us have the courage to embrace the full season of Christmas.