Preparing for Worship – Doug Haney, associate pastor.
Today is the first Sunday of Christmas or Christmastide, meaning we continue to revel in the season of Christmas just a bit longer. (The song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” hints at this tradition even though there are no explicit religious references.)
When we lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, there was an older gentleman named Shelby Daniels in our congregation. Mr. Daniels was an amateur historian and was reared in a town on the eastern shore of the state, an area along the Atlantic Ocean. Shelby once told me that when he was a child in that part of the state, they celebrated “Old Christmas” around Jan. 5, in other words, twelve days after Dec. 25. In part this was because these American colonies had observed Christmas according to the Julian calendar, and they refused to change the day of Christmas celebration to follow a British law passed in 1752 to align with the Gregorian calendar. Apparently, this tradition of Old Christmas lasted until the early 20th century in isolated areas of coastal North Carolina.
So other than being mildly interesting historical trivia, how might an awareness of Christmastide speak to our hearts and minds today? I’ll offer two thoughts.
The good news of Christmas — that Jesus, who is and was God, came to be born and to live among us — is also good news for the first day of the year and every day of the year ahead. Christ took on our humanity. As the old hymn puts it, “Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
The good news of Christmas that was received with joy by all classes of society, from the shepherds to the Magi, bridges the divides that separate us from others. Love came down at Christmas, and only love will help us rebuild a world that is often fractured and fractious. This work of Christmas is not limited to one day of the year, but to every day. So, let’s get to work.