When Christmas is over, Christmas is over

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It happened when our children were little, and the memories remain. On Christmas Eve, our home was the gathering place for grandmas, grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins — an assortment of family members and friends. We urged the singles to bring friends and they did.

It began with a festive display of food; the house alive with sights, sounds, smells, all so beautiful and meaningful. Our four children were so excited all day as they prepared a little skit, a poem, a piano solo — we encouraged them to be creative, but did ask that they remember it was Jesus’ birthday we were celebrating. Their participation was really a very special part of the evening’s festivities, and everyone wondered from year to year what they would do.

When the children were finished, and the gifts distributed and opened, there were squeals of delight, oh’s and ah’s, profuse thanks being expressed — it really was picture-perfect wonderful. Then it was time for dessert to top off the fun. And then it happened. Daughter Tonia sat in the middle of all her Christmas presents — the boy and girl dolls, the doll furniture for her doll house, the books and games, a beautiful assortment of things to delight the heart of any child — and solemnly said, “When Christmas is over, Christmas is over.”

She wasn’t being ungrateful or complaining. She was a sweet-natured little gal and was just making a very candid observation. We adults knew what she meant as we looked at her and then at each other. She’d really just made a clear statement. But her brother, Barry, was quick to scold her.

“That’s not nice to say. Why, when Christmas is over, Christmas is just beginning!”

Tonia wasn’t quite sure how to take his reprimand, and Barry wasn’t aware he had made quite a profound statement. They exchanged glances.

When Christmas is over, Christmas is over. Yes, the tree droops and sags, sheds its needles and never looks quite as beautiful on the days following Christmas as it did during the long-looked-forward-to days before.

Yes, the mysterious packages are no longer concealed mysteries, and the wonderment that surrounds each gift and who is getting what from whom is finally over. The decorations look almost out of place in the days between Christmas and the New Year, and most mothers are ready to take them down and store them until the following year.

The candles have burned so low there is nothing left but charred remains. The wreath on the door, the crèche, the mistletoe in unsuspected places, the candy cane, the gay garlands, and other things are still around, but Christmas is over. Yes, the surface evidences of Christmas are over.

But for Christians, why, when Christmas is over, Christmas is really just beginning. It began more than 2,000 years ago when the Great Giver gave to the world the Greatest Gift. And every year, when Christians the world over remember Jesus’ birth, Christmas is again just the beginning.

It is the beginning of hope rekindled, a deepening of love, a warm feeling of contentment, peace and joy. And it is much more. It is an awareness of an Unseen Presence who chose a lowly manger birth, a stall in a stable, in a little town, a part of a dark world where men would hate, misunderstand and reject him, and finally crucify him.

Christmas is really just the beginning when we hear the music filling the air, when we sing the old familiar carols that tell so beautifully the Christmas story, when we read the Gospel accounts of the infant Jesus’ birth and when in our minds we picture the happenings of that blessed event.

But if in your heart the Babe of Bethlehem has found lodging, if in your heart the true meaning of Christmas has residence, and if you have accepted His gift of salvation through His Son, then you can say, “When Christmas is over, Christmas is really just the beginning.”

A blessed Christmas to readers of this column. Thank you for your expressions of appreciation.

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