I’ve had an epiphany.
And it’s just this:
Where Christmas ends, is where Christmas truly begins.
It’s been 12 long nights since that tree swam in it’s sea of gifts gently tied and presents placed with careful hands.
12 long nights since meals were eaten in a house overfull with food and people and noise and weren’t we all over-tired and over-fed and with eyes overflowing with love and laughter ringing true and tall round tables heavy-laden?
And as we stuffed down this table of love, ate long and laughed loud, crossed hands and snapped crackers and marvelled at his wondrous gift of grace, given to us again and again and again; I wondered what it all means come January when the presents and the Christmas placemats are all tucked back away. When baubles don’t hang on trees, and windows no longer sparkle with Christmas lights.
How do you hang on to Christmas, even as you’re packing it away?
How do you keep on marvelling, when the mayhem threatens to swallow you all over, and bags need packing and shoes polishing, and kids in cars need ferrying to clubs.
That advent spirit, once still and true – how do we keep it from becoming jaded? Bruised and battered by January’s business and busyness and back-to-work overwork?
Because it doesn’t just end there. Christmas was never meant to end there.
This is really just the beginning.
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.”
– Howard Thurman
So the real work of Christmas comes not in the sending of cards to loved ones not seen since we sent them a card this time last year? Not in the racking up of credit card bills and the appeasing of guilt and the buying of gifts and how do we tell them that we want their time, their love, not their presents? It’s never the gifts that we really need anyway, it’s the love. Always love.
Oh this is hard.
Hard love that comes not once a year in tiny boxes and shiny wrapping paper, hard love that comes not in token gestures and yes this is better than nothing but is this the best we can really do?
The real work of Christmas comes when the beginning has truly begun. When the tree is packed away and real life returns. It comes when children are sick and cars break down and lives get busy. It comes when we are asked to give more than we think we can, more than we want to, and can I really do this? Am I really enough this time?
I can tuck tenners into envelopes and send presents through the post and I can feel like I am doing alright, doing my bit. I can get online and order presents from amazon, but what if really I needed to get offline more? To shut down laptops and shut down my own voice, shouting loud and hard about jobs not done and things not written and have I really got time for this?
But what if Christmas looked less like a once-a-year one-shot at loving those around me and more like an everyday giving of all that I am?
Could I do that?
Could I be that gift?
Can I pour myself out as this epiphany sinks in, let myself not let Christmas be put away until next year, but make every day, this year, count like Christmas?
Not in the presents or the glitz or the party, but in the everyday remembering that Christmas was not an end, but a beginning. A starting over of a new way, a new promise, a new love. A giving of one human being to start and show that a love revolution could bust us all wide open and make us whole again, all at the same time and without drawing a breath.
That the miracle of one life was enough to give us all new life. A new start. Enough to share and go around. Jesus birth was meant to show us that all we needed to bring was us. Yes, those wise men brought gifts, but those shepherds came on empty, bended knee, just to be. And it was all taken as grace. All accepted, all cherished.
All I need to bring is me.
Do I always believe it is enough?
Enough to stop and pause in the day and send a text. Kind words and a soft heart and is that enough? Enough to draw breath and take time to cook a meal, or write a card, or extend a hand?
Shouldn’t there be more, flashier ways, of declaring it all holy? Will what I offer make the grade?
Can it really make a difference?
Epiphany. It comes from the greek word “manifestation”. An event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something abstract or theoretical.The action or fact of showing something.
We can all be a manifestation of love.
We can all speak good news, and not turn our eyes from the bad. We can all play our parts – however small – in praying for, and paying for and campaigning for freedom for prisoners and release for the oppressed and sight for the blind.
We can all show grace, in a million little ways, to those around us everyday. Take the time to stop and see and drink tea with those who need it. To care and engage and be present. We can all embody the true meaning of Christmas come, and Christmas here to stay, and Immanuel – God with us. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it has to be something. If epiphany means manifestation, and a manifestation is the ‘action or fact of showing something’ then it has to be something. Because the lost, and the broken, and the hungry – they all need something. We all need something; whether it’s today or yesterday, or next week or next year. We’ve all lifted weary heads and breathed in deep the gift of another’s thought or care or love.
So shouldn’t it be our job, our purpose, our highest calling perhaps, to carry on doing what He came to start?
Let’s be the difference. Be the gift. Be the hope. Be Christmas all year round.
That’s my Epiphany. Le’s start something.
I’m putting this epiphany into action by coming up with one thing I want to do every day (or most days!), every week and every month during 2017. Reading Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way has inspired me more than I thought possible, and the beautiful quote above, shared on twitter by St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday, has put some more meat on those first stirrings of my soul. More on this in future posts, but if you’ve got your own ideas on how to keep on with the work of Christmas now that Christmas is over, I’d love for you to share your thoughts and ideas – let’s start something!
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