When you enter St. Francis this Sunday, or watch Mass on livestream, you’ll see that we will still have our Christmas trees up. Some people wonder, why are the Christmas decorations still up on January 9th?
Most of us know the song the 12 days of Christmas, with its list of strange Christmas gifts (who needs eight maids-a-milking???). The traditional 12 days of Christmas counted the days from Christmas to the Epiphany, which is traditionally celebrated on January 6th, even though in some countries, like the US, it is now celebrated on a Sunday. These 12 days were the days of the Christmas season when the mystery of the incarnation was reflected upon and celebrated by the Church.
Today the Christmas season has been expanded. It now extends from the evening of December 24th until the Sunday after the Epiphany. The Sunday after Epiphany is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This is why our Christmas decorations are still up and we are still celebrating Christmas on January 9th.
So what unifies the Christmas season? The liturgy during this season celebrates everything from the birth of Christ, to the visit of the Magi, to the presentation of the Lord in the temple 40 days after His birth. But it also celebrates the Baptism of Jesus when he was 30 years old. How do all of these episodes of Jesus life fit together?
While December 25th definitely celebrates the birth of Jesus, the Christmas season really celebrates the identity of Jesus. It celebrates who He is. Jesus is the incarnate Son of God. He is Emmanuel, God with us, in the flesh. All of the Christmas feasts point to this reality. The angels announced him as Lord, and Christ and shepherd at his birth. The Magi recognize this and offer him gifts honoring him as King, and God and sacrifice. Simeon and Anna recognize and proclaim who Jesus is at his Presentation in the Temple; and at His baptism, the voice of the Father reveals that Jesus is the Son of God. That is why this event from Jesus’ adult life is celebrated in the Christmas season.
Christmas is a season of revelation and epiphany. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the great event of the incarnation of God in history. The many days of Christmas allow us to immerse ourselves in the great love God has for all of us. One day is no where near enough time to take in the reality of what Christ’s birth means. Maybe a lifetime is not enough time to take in just how much God loves us.
So Merry Christmas, again, yes, in January.
Director of Evangelization