Christmas fills one with so much joy and anticipation, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit let down on December 26th. Radio stations stop playing Christmas carols. A few Christmas trees have already been tossed to the curb.
That’s why it’s nice to attend church in the days after Christmas. You can still sing Christmas carols and admire the creche featuring the baby Jesus.
According to the National Catholic Register, Christmas begins on December 25. (So, basically, we’re doing this whole Christmas thing wrong.) The octave of Christmas runs through January 1. For many Christians, the celebration doesn’t end there but extends to the feast of the Epiphany (the visitation by the Magi). There’s a lot of joyfulness still to be had around the newborn king.
When you get into the post-Christmas readings, though, you start to feel rushed. In today’s reading, John the Baptist and Jesus meet up for the first time in anticipation of the baptism of Jesus. Wait a minute. How is Jesus already an adult when we don’t celebrate the coming of the Magi until Sunday?
The liturgical year waits for no one, it seems. There’s a lot of Jesus’ life to get through before we find ourselves in the season of Lent, so the daily readings move us along at a faster clip.
I consulted uscatholic.org, where I learned that early Christians read whatever was available; there was no schedule to Mass readings. The Roman Missal appeared in the 16th Century and brought together a collection of readings that all Catholics could follow at Mass. How does the Church determine what is read and when? I’m still working on that. I’ll get back to you.
Anyway, I’m over here all sentimental about Jesus being born and two weeks later, I’m in church listening to a story about a grown-up Jesus. Then, during communion, the organist sings “What Child Is This?” My head is spinning.
After Mass, I walk over to the creche. Jesus is still a baby, thank goodness. I’d hate to see a bearded Jesus all scrunched up in the manger.
I get the feeling that we like to hang onto the thought of Jesus as a newborn. The image carries with it so much promise and beauty. So much hope for all of us, whether we believe or not. The season leading up to the magical moment fills the earth with quiet grace. We’d like to keep that for as long as possible. That’s probably why I’m not ready for Jesus to be baptized by John and start performing miracles. He’s growing up too fast. I want the promise and beauty and hope and grace to stick around a lot longer.