The decorations of Christmas are still on display throughout the house. Gifts once wrapped have been revealed, the anticipation of their mystery vanished in the unwrapping process. Special Christmas treats, so joyfully prepared, have now been consumed, though there may be some remaining remnants to remind me of all the sweet treats that appear during Christmas time. The music has abruptly ceased, the Christmas music that is. This leaves me with a strange sadness, unless of course this music was started too early, then it may be more of a relief than a regret.
Even the Hallmark Christmas movies may be over? But they did start way too early. If they are stretched out any more over the year, they will no longer be seasonal and they will no longer be special. So, in the quiet of this after Advent morning, I sit surrounded by the trappings of Christmas preparation and anticipation and wonder, “what now?”
Actually, the event of Advent is not officially over just yet, not until January 6th. It is on this day that Epiphany is celebrated, also called Three Kings Day or Twelfth Day, because it is the twelfth day after Christmas. Because of this continued celebration of Christ, many leave decorations, including trees and lights, up through January 6th. Epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning “appearance,” “manifestation” or “revelation” which makes sense because Jesus’s appearance here on earth was God’s revelation of Himself to us. Jesus was and is the manifestation of God the Father to us.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3)
“He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17)
Is it any mystery why we celebrate Jesus’s birth? He is Emmanuel, “God with us.”
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
The wonder is that it is not a year long, never ending celebration. Because what God did for me in sending His Son, Jesus, to be the atoning sacrifice for my sins, is something I want to remember and to celebrate with joy new each day, all over again, as long as I live. God’s manna and His mercies are new every morning – so, too, should my thankfulness and my hope be new each day.
So what now? Eventually, I will have to pack away again my rediscovered Christmas decorations. (I confess – I often delay taking down my decorations, because I get attached to them and enjoy them once they are out where I can see them) Lights will come down from the houses that line my street and from the city streets and public places where Christmas lights have added welcome cheer during dark days. The season of gift giving has come to an end, but hopefully not the spirit of generosity that grows strong in the days of Advent. There is silence in the space once filled with Christmas carols, a space waiting to be filled with songs of praise and worship springing from the living out of more ordinary days than Advent days, but days of meaning and purpose nonetheless.
What now, in these after Advent days? Is there no work left to do? No, He is coming again. There is much to do while I wait for His return. Remember that Jesus said,
“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” (Luke 12:37)
My Advent journey has brought me into the presence of the Christ child and changed me forever. After Advent, for the shepherds meant returning to their sheep, but they went back to tending their flocks changed people. They had had an encounter with the living God. The result of that encounter is explained in these words in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.”
Because of Christ’s presence I am a new creation. I am now His ambassador and He has given me a ministry – the ministry of reconciliation. Advent may be over, but my journey is not. I have a whole new purpose ahead of me! So did the shepherds, so did the woman at the well, (remember her from yesterday’s post?) so did Peter, so does anyone who comes into the presence of the Christ child, become a new creation and receive a new purpose in life.
after Advent, what now? I am a new creation. I will follow wherever He leads me. There is adventure on the path ahead, there is beauty, meaning, delight, purpose, pain, sorrow, loss, comfort, companionship, joy and hope – always hope – as I walk by faith and not by sight, following Jesus.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.’ ” (Matthew 16:24)
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’ . . . So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.” (Genesis 12:1 & 4)
Christmas is over – it is after Advent and I am left with one of Advent’s best gifts – hope. Jesus has come! Jesus is coming back! this is the hope that sustains.
“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in You I trust, O my God. . . . No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame, . . . for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.” (Psalm 25:1-5)
“those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23)
after all the activity of this Advent season, in the quiet of this after Advent day, I turn my attention to what is yet to come . . . Jesus is yet to come . . .
“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” (Psalm 33:20-22)
after Advent, still – “The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.” (Psalm 97:1)
sincerely, Grace Day