An email just arrived in my inbox instructing the various church staff to remove all of the Christmas decorations from the Sanctuary before next Sunday. This always grieves me. In this place — in the church — where we rebel against the consumerism of Christmas, where we practice another order of time, where we believe that Christmas is not just a day but a whole season, shouldn’t we leave the decorations up? They can disappear from malls. The light displays may be removed from neighbors’ homes — but shouldn’t we embrace that there are indeed twelve days of Christmas?
Maybe it’s because I’m part of the United Church of Christ and we are generally (though not always) fairly low church. Still, this explains why there is no explanation of the Christmas season on our denomination’s website. This explanation of the liturgical colors is as good as it gets. (The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America does it much better. Check it out. And give thanks that we are in full communion with the ELCA.) But I want more. I didn’t grow up with this emphasis. There is no reminder of how the church used to be in this desire. Instead, it’s the longing of my heart to actually order my time differently. I want this season to last all twelve days.
I don’t want a partridge in pear tree or five golden rings. I want time. I need space. I want to absorb what happened in Bethlehem. I want to make room so that God can be born in me. Christine Valters Paintner explores this possibility in her recent Patheos article, Holy Birthing: Practices for the 12 Days of Christmas. She starts with a quote from the 15th century mystic Meister Eckhart that I just love.
What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be Mothers of God.
It is the exact question I want to ponder. How do I give birth to God now? How do I imagine myself as Mother Mary? How do I create new wonder in the world? How can it be? I need twelve days to find an answer to this question. I will probably need most of the Season of Epiphany too. But, I want to leave the decorations up to remember that it’s not done yet. The wisepeople came 12 days later — and it might take me that long too. It might take all of us that long. It’s the strange mystery that we practice in the church together. Our time is different and it should be different. We are seeking another way of being in the world. Right now, in these 12 days, we need enough space to marvel that God actually can come into our world. God can be born — in you and in me.