It ain’t over yet
Fair warning: this is going to be one of those weird religious posts, but that’s where my head is at these days.
Is your Christmas stuff still up? If you consider yourself to be a Christian (you’re off the hook, Bluz!) it should be. Despite my Grandmother’s quip about Christmas’s instant demise (see last post), on the church calendar, Christmas Day is really the beginning of a celebration that goes from the Feast of the Nativity (Dec 25) all the way to the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6) — the proverbial “12 Days of Christmas.” I know this feels like a cold bucket of water to our culture. I know that for many this has no meaning or anchor in tradition. For most of us, the material nature of Christmas Day is hyped to such a degree that by the time it arrives, we are almost glad to be rid of it. We are anxious to move on to the cultural celebration of another lap of the earth around the sun. Even if we do not succumb to the drunken bacchanal of New Year’s Eve festivities, most of us seem to relish hitting that “reset button” that is the turning of the calendar.
When you think about it, though, this is really a rather arbitrary celebration. I mean, any day could be a celebration of a lap around the sun. There is no starting or finishing line. No tape to break. It’s an unbroken loop. In fact, each lap is about 6 hours off, forcing us to add in that Leap Year day every four years. What it really becomes is an opportunity to celebrate that thing that rules all our lives: time.
I wonder if by falling into this trap, we are allowing secular time to supersede liturgical time. We are so anxious to start over in life — with our diets, our health, our finances, and all our other goals — that we are willing ignore the holiness of a moment in time for the tyranny of the things of time. We can’t pause very long to reflect and live in the moment before we must sprint off into the future.
I do love the Jewish concept of the Sabbath. It is a pause to bring holiness into the concept of time. This is from the writing of Rabbi Abraham Heschel:
The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.
Although Heschel is referring to the Sabbath, I think it rings true for how quickly we put away Christmas to celebrate another New Year. In doing so, I wonder if we are too hasty to move away…
…from the mystery of creation to the results of creation,
…from the creation of the world to the world of creation.
This may be why I have resisted making resolutions, even though there are plenty of things in my life that need me to be more resolute. I just need them to be more tied to my spiritual life than to my calendar life, if that makes any sense. I need more help in addressing these things. My sheer human willpower is not enough. Not nearly enough. I need spiritual renewal and empowerment to face these things. I need a little more holy incarnation and a little less human incantation.
Don’t get me wrong. I popped a cork at midnight. I turned my calendar ahead to 2013. But I also am attempting to remain in the mystery through the 12th Night. While Christmas celebrates God coming down, Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Christ to the world (to Jews through his dedication and to Gentiles through the Magi’s visit). I need the revelation as well as the incarnation. I need it all this year. Then, I pray that I will be ready to move on and do what must be done.