Tapping into an After-Christmas Spirit

The presents have been opened.  The cards have all been sent and filed.  We laughed, we hugged, we ate roast beast.  For many of us, the decorations have already come down.  (Of course in the Grayson household, they stay up until mid-May).

One of the nice spiritual blessings of Christmas is the atmosphere of faith and charity that accompanies it.  Yes, there are a lot of issues with commercialism, Charlie Brown.  But regardless, our airwaves are carrying songs about a little town called Bethlehem and we anticipate that Silent Night.  I’m sure many of us are annoyed at how some of our brothers and sisters in the Church crowd into the services only at Christmas and Easter.  And while they should be there every Sunday, at least Christmas draws them to the Table of the Lord.

But the Christmas season is over and we have returned to Ordinary Time.  And for many of us we have already settled into our ordinary routines.  And we wait for Christmas to come again and sprinkle its magic over our lives.

This should not be the case.

We should look to the Magi from the Gospel of Matthew.  Like us, they experienced a great build-up to Christmas.  And like us, there was a lot of traveling that culminating in giving of gifts.  But what made their experience special, and what should make our experience special, is that they had a life-changing encounter with Christ.

Every Lent we go through spiritual boot camp and take up our crosses and our daily sacrifices in preparation for holy week.  But then when the time is over, we cast aside the burden and, like we do after Christmas, return to our former way of life.  At least, this has often been my experience of Lent for many years.  And yet this return to normal completely misses the point of both the Christmas and Lenten seasons.

The model for us should be the Magi.  After they had a real and true meeting with the Lord, it says “they returned to their country by another route.” (Matt 2:12)  While they did return to what came before, they did it in a different way.

Christ changes us.  We should not be the same.  We should not act the same.  If we fall back into our old routines without change, then we have not really encountered the Lord.

Think about the disciples in John 6.  Jesus informs them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood or they would have no life within them.  They complained that the teaching was hard.  And it is a hard thing to believe, indeed.  It takes great faith to hold that the Eucharist is Christ Himself.

But Jesus wanted to give them the entire truth.  He wanted them to have a real and true encounter with Him.  But because a number of them could not accept this mystery, “As a result of this, many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him.” (John 6:66)  (Note the number created by the chapter and verse.)

The image we have of the Magi is not this.  They returned, but by another road.  They did not leave Christ in that manger in Bethlehem.  They brought Him with them to their daily lives.

What about us?  Now that we have experience the faith and charity of Christmas, do we now return to our former way of life and no longer accompany Him?  Or do we return to our life by another road?  There is no reason that the joy of Christmas should stop now.

I don’t mean that we need to be singing Christmas carols all day long.  But the spirit of giving and family and spirituality can still be ours.

Remember the joy at making others happy with your gifts?  There is no reason we cannot be generous still.  If not with our money, we can give freely our talent, our time, or even the kind words that flow through us so freely at Christmas.

Remember the sense of faith in the air on Christmas Eve?  We can hold onto it still.  The churches are still open.  We can trade in our Nativity scenes for other religious art and icons to remind us of Christ’s life and saving works.

Remember the wonderful feeling of togetherness with friends and family?  It doesn’t have to be only once a year.  We can still make time in our ordinary lives to share time with those we love.  We can make regular plans to meet for dinner or games or just plain old conversation.  And with the plethora of communication tools about us, there is never a reason not to call, text, email, facebook, tweet, skype, or visit.  The tidings of comfort and joy can carry over on and on.

We all know that Christmas time is magic.  But whether or not that magic spell wears off is entirely up to us.

Copyright © 2014, W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

Leave a Reply

next post: I Can’t Do This Without You: The Case for Christian Community

previous post: Ambassadors of Jesus