Just because the tree is recycled (or packed away), candles, ribbons and trinkets tucked into an overflowing closet, crèches boxed up, carols replaced by praise songs—Christmas isn’t over. In many faith traditions, most of these accoutrements of the holy season remain in place until Candlemas, February 2nd, the celebration of Jesus’ presentation at the Temple.
Maybe you’re like Ginny who wrote this letter to God: Dear God—Please put another holiday between Christmas and Easter. There is nothing good in there now.* No matter your personal Christmas End date, however, Christmas is cause for remembrance and even celebration throughout the year.
If you’re like me, after all the Christmas packing up, almost every year I find one decoration that was overlooked, although this year that number increased to three! Instead of groaning at the thought of opening a box to tuck them away for eleven months, what if I leave at least one out in full view as a reminder of the miraculous, unbelievable, unexplainable incarnation? God so intent on reestablishing the intended love relationship between him and his obstinate, self-centered, sinful daughters and sons that he suffered the indignity of birth in Bethlehem, the loneliness of life rife with misunderstanding and rejection, and death as a proclaimed criminal.
While we Westerners pride ourselves on rational thought, I fear we’ve neglected the potential of imagination—the importance of pictures and symbols to remind and arouse us for what I call heart thinking. (Others more skilled define it as meditation or contemplation.) Just as pictures in albums (or on our phones!) of children or special pets elicit warm memories and gratitude for their presence in our lives, so that forgotten Christmas angel, bell or candle can be a reminder of God’s goodness. All year.
* Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall, Children’s Letters to God, Workman Publishing, 1991