January opens with the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, which serves as a joyous reminder that the Christmas season is still upon us. Celebrating Mary’s role in saying “yes” to God and the incarnation of Christ is a wonderful way to keep the spirit of the season alive within our hearts. And what a relief it is to realize that we can and should still celebrate the Christmas season because the time we spend in preparation for that special day and the activities surrounding it can be so hectic.
Of course, our preparation and celebration of Christmas is intended to leave us with something that lasts throughout the year. It is a time to awaken our appreciation for God’s gift of his son for the salvation of all humanity, and it is fitting that we pull out the stops on Christmas Day to allow the reality of that miracle to open our hearts to be transformed by God’s love for us.
But our Christmas celebration should continue beyond even Jan. 1 for a much simpler reason. Our celebration should extend throughout the entirety of the Christmas season, a period that lasts until Epiphany Sunday, held this year on Jan. 8.
The most enduring way to keep Christmas alive within our hearts throughout the season is to attend Mass as often as possible. The Solemnity of Mary concludes the period of eight feast days known as an octave that began with the Nativity of Our Lord, and this first week of January continues with great Christmas season feast days, with one of the highlights being the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus on Jan. 3.
The Christmas season culminates with Epiphany Sunday on Jan. 8, when we honor the recognition of Christ’s divinity by the Wise Men who travelled from afar to reverence the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. It is the perfect capstone to this festive time when we gather with family and community to heighten our own and everyone else’s awareness of the importance of Christ’s birth and His presence in our midst today.
So, if the whirlwind of preparing for Christmas Day has left you feeling like the whole thing has come and gone without giving you the chance to appreciate it, take heart in the fact that our celebration is ongoing. When considering the extended nature of this celebration, you might realize there’s a time and place for virtually everything. We have the hustle and bustle surrounding Christmas Day, the food and fun and time we share together, and the gift-giving to show our appreciation for one another.
But as we approach Epiphany Sunday, when the realization of the meaning of Christ’s birth becomes clear, perhaps we might take some time to appreciate the season in a different way. Perhaps we might slow things down, do a bit more prayer and contemplation, take time with friends and family in quieter ways, ways that enable us to truly understand each other’s hopes and dreams and even fears and struggles as we embark upon this New Year together.
When we do these things, we will find ourselves growing in appreciation for the way Christ is present in each and every one of us, and we will allow that presence to flourish within our midst. In this way, we open our hearts to all the Christmas season has to offer so that we can be transformed throughout the year by the coming of Christ into our lives.
For a free copy of The Christophers’ LIFT UP YOUR HEARTS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or email . Fr. Dougherty is on the Christophers’ board of directors.
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