Are you busy celebrating Christmas? Is everything like the crib, Christmas tree, crackers, cakes all set up? Are you celebrating the Christmas Cycle giving enough importance to all the three phases like Advent, Christmas and Epiphany?
Our culture tends to skip Advent and start celebrating Christmas after Thanksgiving. Then it’s all packed up and stored away by New Year’s. This year, consider returning to the ancient practice of seeing the whole “Christmas Cycle” — the period that embraces both the Advent and Christmas seasons — as one unit of joyous celebration. Preparation comes first, then comes celebration extending a few weeks after Christmas Day.
The focal point of the Christmas cycle is obvious: God becoming one of us in Jesus, the Incarnation. All three phases of the cycle — Advent, Christmas and Epiphany — hinge on and celebrate that point.
These celebrations help us to name the ways our lives are caught up in the “big story” of Christ. And these feasts tie our lives to Christians throughout history. The tradition of the Church, the living gospel, is the real-life experience of Christians like you and like me, and those who have gone before us.
Advent season lasts for about four weeks. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. The time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. During Advent, we emphasize the joy that some would compare to the months before a child is born: excitement, wonder, joy, expectation, even exhilaration at the life that is in our midst right now, yet also a hope and longing, and carefulness to get things into order.
We prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” In the season with this name, we keep in mind both “advents” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come.
During the Christmas season we celebrate the wonder of the Incarnation. How wondrously we are made that the Word of God would become one of us! God shows us how to live fully: by pouring out our lives for others. That is what the days of Christmas are all about. These days we remember the immense love of our God, that love which made Him send his only son to save us. We remember how special we are in the eyes of our Creator.
Christmas is not about the Savior’s infancy; it is about His deity. The humble birth of Jesus Christ was never intended to conceal the reality that God was being born into the world. Without forsaking His divine nature or diminishing His deity, He was born into our world as a tiny infant. He was fully human, with all the needs and emotions that are common to us all. Yet He was also fully God, all-wise and all-powerful.
Epiphany falls on the twelfth day after Christmas. Epiphany and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord celebrate Christ becoming manifest — that is, present to all people. On Epiphany we focus on the three Wise Men symbolizing the many races for whom Christ was born. The baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of his public ministry.
God’s “Christmas gift” of the Incarnation is a gift for everyone! We wish all of you a Merry Christmas and urge each one of you to celebrate all the three phases of the Christmas cycle – Advent, Christmas and Epiphany – with equal importance. God bless you.
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