Faith Works 12-26-15
'Twas the Night After Christmas
Yes, yes, children in bed, not even a mouse, all that.
But we're talking about the night after, not the night before. Jolly old elves are off to the Caribbean by now for their long winter's rest after a manic night of activity. There's no chance of one of them showing up, not pulled by magical miniature reindeer or coming through the hearth that we don't have.
There may be visions of sugarplums, or at least odd dreams from consuming too much sugar, but there's no snugness in bed tonight.
Bloom County has already pointed out (in its new online series) that the new Star Wars movie can't, in fact, bring meaning to our lives, no matter how good it is. And it turns out all the presents and packages and well-stuffed stockings don't bring much happiness, either.
The morning after Christmas morning you start to say "hey, it's time we clean up some of this wrapping and plastic scraps and . . . um, is this a broken toy or a part of the packaging?" The reaction was a mix of irritation and obliviousness. No one cleaned up anything; you picked up some of the litter across the floor, but stopped after a while and left it as it was.
Food sat out in the kitchen, some of it probably just needing to be thrown away now, others waiting to be rewrapped and stowed in the cupboards.
You ladle out a mugful from the dregs of the wassail on the stove, now cool but still spicy. Shoving aside some partially assembled toys on the sofa, sitting is the plan but the purpose is more uncertain. You don't want the TV on, really, but you're not at ease with the silence, either.
What was it all about, anyhow? Was anyone really that happy with what they got? For all the shopping and shoving and sliding of credit cards through scanners, the unwrapping and unveiling and opening up of presents took about two minutes, tops. Then the awkward assembly and activation and application of all the stuff, actual and virtual, then a sort of weary pause before "can we go see a movie?"
Was seeing a movie what all the build up was about? If it wasn't to get the thing you hoped for, or to have the stuff in your hand you'd only read about or seen on TV, if being together wasn't the main point of all the driving around and cleaning up the guest room and having people over . . . what was it all about, anyway?
There was just such a weariness to having it done, more than in the work it took to do it. So much energy and effort and now it just all has to be put away, or found a place for.
That's what they said in church, wasn't it. It's not about the stuff. It's about the baby. "The reason for the season" and all that. You could hear that, hear it a dozen times and more, but it didn't quite register. Now, though . . .
The night after Christmas. Maybe it's only now you could really think about Christ, about the baby, about the mother and . . . father? Whatever you should call Joseph, poor guy. But he did his part. But Jesus, the baby and the boy and the man who becomes something more, something he was always meant to be: that's who we're celebrating, isn't he?
So you lift your glass of room temperature wassail, you look around at the sagging decorations and the still glittering tree, and you look up, and think – pray? – Happy birthday, Bethlehem baby. Happy birthday, Jesus. Happy day for you, for your folks, for us. With you in the picture this all makes a little more sense, doesn't it?
The baby is the beginning of it. Christmas is the start, and it's not done. Somehow, knowing there was more to do that was worth doing makes you feel a little less worn out and empty. It's time to get into a new year with that new birth and give the child some thought. Maybe even give him something more.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your day after Christmas at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.