enjoy the journey…

Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day
– Billy Joel

In our family, the joke has always been, why celebrate your birthday on just one day? Why not have a birthday week or even better, a birthday month? This usually happens because someone sends a card or present late, or we have to work the day of a birthday, so the minor celebration happens then but the bigger one happens later. On my 50th birthday, I was blessed with FIVE celebrations over three weeks. I don’t understand why people dread turning 50…it was awesome!!

As I mentioned, I decided to stay away from Facebook, to help me focus on the Christmas season, especially the Octave of Christmas. As so I did…until my husband, Jim, read the following to me from a post that a friend put on Facebook on December 26.

And Christmas 2021 is a wrap! Lots of family, lots of love and too much food! Decorations are down and I say Bring on Summer!!

Christmas has become something that starts the day after Thanksgiving or for some, even before, and goes like a speed train, hurling at lightning speeds until it hits December 25…but what comes next? After the food, the family, the gifts…is that the end? Is that all there is to Christmas?

For many Christians, December 25 is just the beginning of the Christmas season. What we celebrate up to December 24 is Advent…waiting and preparing for Christ’s birth. And while we celebrate his birth, we don’t box it up immediately and put it away until next year.

Rev. Pius Parsch summed it up with his writing about the Octave of Christmas…In the spirit of the Church, the great feasts of redemption should not be restricted to a single celebration but should continue through a full week. Mother Church is a good psychologist: she understands human nature perfectly. When a feast comes, the soul is amazed and not quite prepared to think profoundly upon its mystery; but on the following days the mind finds it easy to consider the mystery from all sides, sympathetically and deeply.

And so, we celebrate Christ’s birth each day of the Octave. We begin with the Solemnity of Christmas Day. Then on Day 1, we honor the Holy Family – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus – and with them, we honor all families, including the universal church family.

Day 2, we contemplate the cost of following Jesus, by celebrating the Feast of St Stephen, the first Christian martyr (and deacon). Through Stephen, we see the witness of his faith to the newborn King. It reminds us that following Christ requires us to give everything of ourselves, completely and without reserve.

The third day is the feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. So much of what we know of Christ came through the writings of St. John. He is a wonderful example of faith and devotion for us to follow. He was so beloved by the Lord, that just entrusted the care of his mother, Mary, to John, as he hung upon the cross.

The fourth day is one filled with sadness and joy. It is the feast of the Holy Innocents. When King Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Matthew 2:16. Today, being the fifth day, we celebrate these innocent babes whose lives were taken. Herod, in his fear and hate, killed countless innocent children in his attempt to eliminate Jesus. We pause to feel the grief of those parents, as we pray for all parents who have lost children. And then we celebrate these martyrs of the faith, babes too young to witness with their voices and yet they are remembered and celebrated even today. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

I think this day also reminds us of our own lives and tragedies that have occurred. The knowledge that the Christ child was safe may not have eased the pain of those grieving parents at the time, just as we suffer and grieve for our loved ones. It reminds us that life can be unkind and unjust, but we must trust that God will right every wrong in the end. That heavenly justice will prevail and one day, we will celebrate with our loved ones for all eternity. No matter what our tragedy may be, know that the God who entered our world as a helpless baby, did so to take our sins to the cross with him. Let him transform your hurt…your pain, with his incarnation, death, and resurrection, into a crown of martyrdom.

Day 5 is Simeon’s Prophecy. Simeon was promised by God that he would actually see, with his own eyes, the savior of the world. Throughout his life, Simeon would have anticipated that moment. And then the day came that Mary and Joseph brought their newborn child to the temple. Simeon knew that this child was the promised savior.

Lord, now you can let your servant go in peace…for my eyes have seen the salvation you have prepared.” Wow…what powerful words. I mean, how could it get any better than holding the infant Jesus in your arms and recognizing that you are holding the savior of the world? During .the season of Christmas, we should all strive to see Christ and give glory to God for the perfect gift of his son.

The sixth day, we celebrate the prophetess, Anna. Anna was a widow who was eighty-four years old. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2

Anna, like Simeon, was blessed with a personal revelation by God and anticipated the coming of the Messiah. Anna also recognized the child as he was presented at the temple by Mary and Joseph. And in her joy, it says she spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. In Anna, we are reminded not to keep our encounters with Christ to ourselves, but to share them with those around us.

Day 7 we celebrate the Eternal Word Becomes Flesh. On this day, we are reminded that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” At Christmas, we focus on the birth of Jesus, but these words remind us that Jesus is the Word, and the Word has always been. We are given the great mystery, the Word who takes on flesh and yet is eternal with God. The passage says that he took on flesh and dwelt among us.

The term “Word” is a translation of the Greek word “Logos” which means plan. In this passage, we see God’s plan of salvation. We know that this baby will grow, live, and die…all for us.

The eighth day, or the Octave Day of Christmas, January 1, is the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. How fitting that we should “bookend” our celebration with honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary, who said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” How fitting that we should go forward with our Mother Mary, into the new year, drawing us closer to her son through her witness. Mary’s last recorded words are instructions for us to live by…“Do whatever he tells you.”

Remember, the three wise men are still making their way to the Bethlehem. We celebrate Epiphany on January 6th. So enjoy the journey and continue to celebrate. If you haven’t already taken it down, leave up that tree…those decorations…those nativities. Now that the shopping, rushing, gatherings are over, take time to reflect and enjoy the season of Christmas.

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