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Follow the Light: A Post-Christmas Message

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.” (1 John 1:5)


I am writing this on December 26, the day after the Christmas holy day. To keep Christmas’s holiness and spiritual meaning intact, I’ve created the term Giftmas, the alternate secular version of Christmas I expounded on previously. Christmas is a winter holy day, and Giftmas is a winter holiday if you get my drift. (A snow drift?)


After the pressurized anticipation leading up to Christmas and Giftmas has deflated, the week between the Big Day and New Year’s Day feels like everything has gone stale. The freshness and excitement of the Giftmas season give way to a sense of back-to-the-grindstone impending normalcy. But depending on how crazy your holidays were, that’s also a relief, right?


Secular Giftmas music quickly feels oddly out of place. Many radio stations often abruptly dismiss Rudolph’s luminescent honker and Frosty the Snowman’s magical top hat and flip to the standard fare of whatever they were playing before the Giftmas season began, sometime around November 1.


The Giftmas lights also begin to disappear from the neighborhood, house by house, like bulbs burning out one at a time, except for that guy who refuses to take them down until more temperate days come - like in April – or June.


The long build-up to Giftmas quickly falls off after the December 25 festivities. I confess, I’m one of those party-poopers who makes sure the tree and other decorations are packed away by the 30th, if not earlier. To me, the only thing worse than the staleness of the post-Giftmas week is being surrounded by the desiccated remnants of the holiday any time after New Year’s Day.


“Yes. We’re done. Let’s go.” (*the sound of a whipcrack*) “Grab those totes filled with strings of lights, village figurines, tree ornaments, and household decorations, and heave them into the attic and garage.” The stuff that took so long to put up quickly falls into a memory.


Finito and forgotten.


What a far cry from the truthful message of Christmas!


December 26 is Giftmas’s termination, but it’s just the beginning for Christmas.


Giftmas ends when the packages are unwrapped, the kitchen is cleaned, and the trappings are stowed for another year. But the event that Christmas announces reminds us of the start of a whole new world remade in God’s image.


A fun part about growing up in a traditional Christian congregation was following the church liturgical (church service) calendar. When I served as an acolyte in the Lutheran Church (again, an altar boy for youse Catholics), I had to follow the church calendar to know which color parament (an ornamental ecclesiastical hanging or vestment) should be used to cover the altar and other sanctuary furnishings. Please pardon me as I geek out religiously for a moment.


Here’s a quick look at the church calendar with the corresponding seasonal colors:

·         Advent – the four Sundays before Christmas – blue.

·         Christmas through Epiphany – December to January – white.

·         The Four Sundays after Epiphany – January to February – green.

·         Transfiguration Sunday – February – white.

·         The Six Sundays of Lent – February to April – purple.

·         Resurrection Sunday and the following six Sundays – April to May – white.

·         Pentecost Sunday – June – red.

·         Holy Trinity Sunday – June – white.

·         The Twenty Sundays after Trinity Sunday – June to October – green.

·         Reformation Sunday – October – red.

·         All Saints Day – November – white.

·         November Sundays – green.

·         Christ the King Sunday, the week before Advent – white.

Do you see the progression? The church calendar tracks Jesus’ life from birth to death, resurrection to ascension, and all the way to His return. The King is born and will return, all on a grand annual celebration cycle!


By the way, if you think that’s cool, wait until we talk about the biblical calendar as the Father’s prophetic plan for Jesus’ first and second coming. It’s exhilarating!


Anyway, what strikes me is the contrast between Giftmas and Christmas. Giftmas has a long run-up and ends with an abrupt stop. Christmas has a shorter anticipatory time followed by a forward launch into the New Year. Giftmas ends and is quickly packed away. Christmas begins, and the extraordinary story of Jesus’ life gradually unfolds as we follow the church calendar, which takes us through the Gospel and the rest of the New Testament.


Giftmas whines, “Is that all there is?” but Christmas yells, “There’s more! There’s more! There’s more!” until we erupt into praise and worship at Jesus’ resurrection, only to continue through the next seven months in anticipation of King Jesus’ return.


Christmas testifies that life has come to us in a baby’s form, and His life grows and matures until its full vigor is surrendered so we can attain life in our Father’s presence forever. Without Jesus’ birth, there can be no death, resurrection, return, rebirth, or restoration.


Although we celebrate many events of Jesus’ life as recorded in the Gospels, the ever-present undercurrent of Christmas carries the theme of life and light through it all. Jesus’ life and light began so small, yet both will fill the entire world, spiritually and physically. Take a moment to mull the following two scriptures and let their promises sink in:


“The city (the New Jerusalem of the remade earth) does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” and “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever.”  (Revelation 21:23-24, 22:3-5, italics author)


Living in perpetual light in God’s presence is our Heavenly Father’s endgame that began with Jesus’ birth, which He will push forward throughout human history, and into our assured future. His story moves from darkness to light – stunning, incomprehensible, and unimaginable light.


On December 26, Giftmas fades and sputters out like a spent candle. But the light of Christmas spreads like the dawn. The “light” of Giftmas goes dark, but the “light” of Christmas grows brighter.


So, from December 26 to 31 into the New Year, let’s not surrender to the staleness and possible let-down of the Inter-Holidays Week. Let’s not allow the light we have to go dark and be stowed away along with the holiday lights. Let’s faithfully and lovingly continue to share throughout the coming year the “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” proclamation that Linus quotes in A Charlie Brown Christmas.


Let’s keep growing brighter with Jesus’ light as we anticipate that remarkable day when “the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (Jesus’ return, 2 Peter 1:19) for “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday.” (Spiritual maturity, Proverbs 4:18) That’s right. As we grow in spiritual maturity, our words and behavior should also grow as we reflect Jesus’ character and life in increasing measure.


Remember, without the birth, there can be no death, resurrection, ascension, and return that lights our way into eternity.


Follow the Light!.

Shining the Light of God’s Truth on the Road Ahead


Pastor Jay Christianson

The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts

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