For most of the world, today is the day after Christmas, a day to return to work and when everyone’s focus turns to the coming New Year’s celebration. But for many Christians, especially those in liturgical churches, today is just the second day of the twelve days of Christmas, leading up to Epiphany, when we celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men, the Magi, at the home of Mary, Joseph and the young Jesus.
While some people may remember the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, the only context for most of those hearing that music is the giving of twelve gifts and the calculation of their growing cost through the years. That view epitomizes what Christmas has become for the average celebrant, the necessity of gift giving and its ever-increasing cost.
However, what Christmas is really about is gift receiving; the reception of God’s ultimate gift to mankind, the birth of a savior, who as John tells us:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13
While in most cases the old aphorism “It is better to give than receive” applies, in this case the opposite is the most desirable. It is better to receive God’s gift, for in that gift is eternal life and a joy that is beyond understanding.
Late Christmas Eve, my wife and I watched the original Alister Sim version of A Christmas Carol, the best of all the many interpretations. At the end, after having his life forever changed by the events of the night before Christmas, Ebenezer is uncontrollably happy and he keeps saying to himself, “I don’t know why I am so happy, but I am!” and then he chuckles to himself. Those of us who have received Christ know why he is so bubbly; he is filled with the unspeakable joy of Christ, the gift of God, and it is overflowing like living waters out of his life.
May you also, like Ebenezer, find as we progress through the twelve days of Christmas celebration, that your heart is filled with the joy and peace of Christ, as we all join with the Magi in approaching the one who has come to bring us salvation.
Grace and peace and joy unspeakable be yours.