Every year Christmas is preceded by a time of preparation, Advent. We know Advent as a time of opening Advent calendars. But it is a time of preparation, a time of getting ready for the gift of Jesus Christ at Christmas. A time of hope, a time of promise. Advent lasts for four Sundays before Christmas. This year, with Christmas Day being on a Monday, Advent is the shortest it can be: three weeks and one day. Advent is a time when we make inner preparations for the joyful feast of the birth of our Saviour. A time when we renew our prayer life, our reading of the Bible, our receiving of the sacraments.
Then comes the feast of Christmas itself. Beginning on the evening of Christmas Eve. A time for celebrating, giving thanks for the gift itself, the gift of Jesus Christ. Christmas doesn’t just last for a day. It has traditionally lasted twelve days until 5th January. For Christians, Christmas Day itself is one of the most sacred days of the year.
After that, there is a time of reflection on the gift. The season of Epiphany lasts from 6th January to Candlemas on 2nd February. Traditionally it is a time when we think of the wise men coming to visit Jesus. But it does allow us to reflect in greater depth of the gift of Jesus Christ, who is the revelation of God and the revelation of humanity, showing what God is like and what true authentic humanity is like.
Preparation for the gift, celebration of the gift, reflection on the gift. The cycle of the Christmas season doesn’t just last a few days but two months from the beginning of December with Advent to Candlemas on 2nd February.
A very Happy Christmas to you all from Mark Crowther-Alwyn