Merry Christmas! Yes, I know Christmas was a few days ago, but in the church calendar Christmas Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season, not the end. I was reminded of this during our Christmas Eve service, which included a Gospel reading from Luke 2: 1-15.
Singing Silent Night by candlelight.
Whenever I read this passage of the Bible, I hear it Linus’ voice:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
That’s where Linus stops, and that’s where this Gospel reading often stops, but on Christmas Eve, we heard one more sentence.
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Ending the Christmas story there, after the shepherds are greeted by the angel but before they find “the babe lying in a manger,” leaves us with the shepherds, heading with excitement toward Bethlehem where we will find our Savior.
The idea that Christmas is the beginning, not the end, is contrary to our cultural experience. By now, the presents are unwrapped and put away, the best of the Christmas cookies have been eaten, and we are making plans for New Year’s Eve revelry before we commit to our New Year’s Resolutions. But what if we continued with the shepherds on their journey? What if we kept heading to Bethlehem, making known what has been told to us about this child, and glorifying and praising God along the way?
What if we took the love and hope of Christmas, and carried that with us into the new year?