Christmas Continues…

Christmas is upon us, friends! Its joy continues to unspool in these 12 days of celebration, the magnitude of God-with-us sinking ever more deeply into our hearts and lives. Because it is a season so rich with wonder and meaning, I have chosen to reflect briefly on a few of its many themes.

Inside Out

Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord;
   my strength is exalted in my God….

The bows of the mighty are broken,
   but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
   but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.”

–1 Samuel 2: 1, 4-5

 

Christmas continues. It is not over on December 26th. Incarnation is too big a mystery to grasp in a single day. And so we have 12 glorious days to celebrate and ponder the mystery of God-with-us.

As Hannah (who, like Mary, knew what it was to give up a beloved son) sang in her song all those millennia ago, the world has turned upside down: the mighty are broken, the weak are strong, the hungry are sated, the full are starving, the lowly are exalted, the exalted are brought low.

But the world has not just turned upside down. It has turned inside out. God—God!—is now a human baby. In such a world, what else might be possible? What else might happen?

 

All Creation Sings

Praise the Lord, sun and moon;
   praise him, all you shining stars!

–Psalm 148:3

Psalm 148 is creation’s song of praise to its Creator, to the God who created each thing that exists by His Word—the Word that has now become flesh in Jesus Christ.

What, I wonder, happened at the moment of incarnation? What gasp did all creation sharply inhale at the moment when the Word through whom and by whom and in whom they were all created took on flesh, became one of those He had made? What love, what immense love, is this that the eternal, infinite God should limit His eternity, should bind His infinity in human flesh?

No wonder the sun and moon and shining stars sing praise, the mountains and hills and trees, the wild beasts and cattle, the creeping things and winged birds, the kings and all peoples—young and old, men and women—indeed, the very rocks cry out in praise of such a God.

 

Abundance

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
   and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
   and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
   and they shall never languish again.

–Jeremiah 31:12

Jeremiah’s words fill my heart with longing and with hope. They capture my imagination with the beauty and the joy of his vision. Christmas is the foretaste of this promise that God makes to His people. Like an hors d’oeuvre at an elegant meal, Christmas whets our appetites, letting us taste the smallest bite, and promising, There is more where this came from—and the more is even better than what you just tasted!

God-with-us is wonderful beyond words, but us-with-God—that will be thousands upon thousands of times richer! Now we see in a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face. Now we taste the goodness of the Lord, but then we will feast till we are brimful and running over, radiantly filled with all the fullness of God, as the waters fill the sea.

 

Gathered Up

He has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

–Ephesians 1:9-10

Jesus is the one who gathers not just all people to Himself, but all things. He is the one who insists that His disciples “gather up the fragments that nothing may be lost” (John 6:12).

All those broken bits of ourselves that we have lost by the wayside of our lives—Jesus holds them. All our broken dreams that have shattered along the way, all the things we have ever loved and lost, all the broken pieces of our hearts, our lives, our loves—Jesus holds them.

Jesus gathers all things to Himself, picking them up as they fall, that nothing may be lost. In Him, we are whole, creation is whole, the cosmos is whole. Christmas is the season when we embrace the now of God’s promise of wholeness even as we struggle with the broken reality that we do not yet live in the fullness of time. But Jesus lives in the fullness of time, and He is holding all things, including us.

 

Epiphany: Follow That Star

Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’

–Matthew 2:1-2

On Epiphany (January 6) we remember the coming of the magi to see the child Jesus. These wise men saw the star and they left all they held familiar and dear to follow it, knowing it would lead them to something even better. And we are to be like them, willing to leave all we have to follow where Christ leads.

 

For most of us most of the time, following the star simply means paying attention to the people around us, our families, friends, neighbors. Yes, Epiphany calls us to move beyond the familiar, but sometimes, maybe even most of the time, the familiar is not geographical. It may be the familiarity of something we own and hold dear; the strained and fruitless ways we try to earn God’s grace; the soul-eroding habits that keep us from loving God and others as we ought; or a familiar pattern of relating or responding to others that Jesus is calling us to set aside that we might follow Him.

 

In these last few days of Christmas (and the first few days of a new year), ask God what familiar thing or habit or way of being you need to relinquish to enter more fully into the inside-out, praise-worthy, abundant, and upgathering love that God lavishes upon us in Christ Jesus.

In Circle of Seasonsafter I discuss each season (in this case Christmas and Epiphany), is a section entitled “Living the Season.” As we walk these season together, which idea will you try—or have done before and will continue—this year?  Share in the comments what nudges you felt as you read this post, the book, and what you are going to try as you live this season.

~~~

P.S. Amy here. I’ve made a conscious effort to choose books that are not expensive or are free so that you’ll have money to invest in your spiritual walk with God. If you don’t have it yet, please consider buying Kimberlee’s book.

This is the reading plan for January and February:
January 3rd: Kimberlee Conway Ireton and the Christmas section of Circle of Seasons. 
January 10th: we start our January book Beautiful Battle by Mary DeMuth (about spiritual warfare). We will read one section each week. Only $3.99 on Kindle and Amazon. So, next week we dive into section one. This is a rich book you won’t want to miss.

February 7th: Kimberlee Conway Ireton continuing with Circle of Seasons. 
February 14th, 21st, and 28th: Shiloh by Helena Sorensen and recommended by Elizabeth Trotter. Free on kindle! You can get the app and read on your computer or device.

10 Comments

  1. Danielle Wheeler January 2, 2017

    I’m so thankful you’re with us here, Kimberlee. This post…so beautiful and peace-filled. I’m feeling not yet ready for the new year. I needed to sit in the awe of Christmas still. So thank you.

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton January 3, 2017

      Dear Danielle, I’m not ready for the new year, either. I love letting Christmas unspool slowly and without the fanfare and preparation of December. These dark January nights are some of my favorite times to sit by the tree and just look at its lights. May the awe of Christmas settle deep into your soul.

  2. Kimberly Todd January 2, 2017

    Kimberlee, I am loving this journey through the church year. Thank you for leading us. I’ve been taken with Epiphany since I learned about it several years ago, but I haven’t had a practice to live it. My family will chalk our door for the first time this Friday (after we take down the Christmas tree and decorations.) 20 + C + M + B + 17. Thanks for passing the chalk!

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton January 3, 2017

      Dear Kimberly, Chalking my door is one of my very favorite rituals. It only takes about five minutes (because we all stand outside shivering and want to go back in as quickly as possible), but the letters stay on the lintel all year long to remind me Whose I am and why I’m here. I’m so glad you’ll be joining the festivities! A blessed, joyful Epiphany to you!

  3. Phyllis January 3, 2017

    Christmas is still going in full force here! Because we live in a culture that has two Christmases, it’s pretty easy for us to celebrate like this. I wrote again about how that works just a few days ago:
    http://fylliska.blogspot.com/2016/12/christmases-plural.html
    I even mentioned this book. 🙂 And I love the Christmas themes given here; they’re slightly different from what I think of as traditional, but they also fit so perfectly with what Christmas really is.

    As far as Epiphany, it’s never really been on my radar much. Our second Christmas is January 7. (Why does the book say the 6th? Because celebrations began with the first star on Christmas Eve? Actual Christmas Day is the 7th, though.) We celebrate the baptism of Christ on January 19, and I guess I was aware that it’s also Epiphany, but I hadn’t really thought about it. I just read this today:
    “The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the manifestation or revealing of our Lord to the gentiles. In the contemporary Church this means an emphasis on the coming of the Magi to Bethlehem with slightly less emphasis on the baptism of Jesus by John and on His first miracle, the wedding at Cana.”
    –from Divine Hours online

    I’ll link to some photos from one of the most beautiful days I ever had. It was Baptism or Theophany:
    http://fylliska.blogspot.com/2009/01/happy-baptism.html

    So, I found it fascinating to read more about Epiphany now. I loved the story about calling Mother Theresa! And I knew what she would say. 🙂 Since I seem to be having a link fest already, here’s something a friend shared on Facebook recently:
    https://www.facebook.com/lessonslearnedinlife/photos/a.109979089073806.15189.109759299095785/1428386577233044/?type=3&pnref=story

    We usually read The Gift of the Magi somewhere in the Christmas season. Maybe I’ll make that a Theophany tradition now, with those few pages from The Circle of Seasons. The blessing over the door sounds wonderful, too. (I just noticed a house in our neighborhood that is painted with pretty, bright colors and a blessing over their door; I want to get a photo of that.)

    In our family, we tend to take down our Christmas decorations on the Old New Year (Jan. 14).

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton January 4, 2017

      Dear Phyllis, The book says Orthodox Christmas is on January 6 because when I wrote it that was the information I had. It was just this year (as in two days ago!) that I looked at my calendar and saw that Orthodox Christmas was on the 7th, and I wondered if that was its usual date or if something had shifted since I wrote the book. Or maybe different Orthodox Churches celebrate it on different days? Like I say in the introduction to the book, the church year is not one monolithic thing; every tradition celebrates it in slightly (and not so slightly!) different ways, and even on different days. Thanks so much for your wonderfully long comment. I’m so happy to hear your stories of celebrating the church year, especially as they are so different from mine!

  4. M'Lynn January 3, 2017

    I’m so happy to hear another person chime in about “Christmas is not over on December 26.” I feel like Buddy the Elf when he finds another human in New York who shares his affinity for elf culture. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton January 3, 2017

      M’Lynn, Thanks for making me laugh out loud! Yes, we’re still opening gifts in these parts, and singing “Joy to the World” as we light the candle at dinner. The tree is still up, and the Magi have finally reached the far side of the mantle from Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the shepherd and angel. They’ve got a lot of fir, holly, and pinecones to walk through before they reach the “stable” on Friday 🙂 I’m so glad you’re still enjoying Christmas, too!

  5. Amy Young January 3, 2017

    From the Ephiphany section “Part of the problem of our current conception of gift giving is that too often it is merely about stuff, things, experiences rather than giving of our selves.” This challenges me in a good way. Today I am in the mountains with three nieces while their mom, dad, and big sis ski. I have work to do and we are to go on a hike after lunch to get them outside. One really does not want to go — so I offered to play in the snow for an hour with them and the dog. The beaming look she gave me . . . and then I read this (they are play for an hour while I get some work done) let me know I had offered her a gift. I’m going to look each day for an opportunity to give a gift of myself to someone. It won’t always take so much time (an hour isn’t bad, but I don’t mean for people to feel overwhelmed).

    Kimberlee I loved reading about your call to Mother Theresa!!! What a treasure. I agree, her suggestion is both so simple and so hard!!!

    This year, we will take down the decorations on Jan 6th, and like Kimberly, we’ll chalk our house. I love thinking of the blessing as I come and go. Thank you :)!

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton January 3, 2017

      Amy! I love imagining you out in the Colorado snow with your nieces. My youngest often asks me to play Legos with him; I am mechanically challenged (to say the least), and I too often tell him no. He’s positively beatific when I say yes. This Christmas we’ve played Legos twice for maybe 20 or 30 minutes each time. It’s such a small thing, but it means so much to him. Thank you for reminding me what’s true and important (and using my own words to do it!)

      I’ll think of you and Kimberly both when we’re shivering on the front porch with the chalk on Friday night! 🙂

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