Wait – why are we talking about Christmas at the beginning of March? It’s been over for two months! But as I see it, Christmas isn’t over, because Jesus is not a seasonal Savior. His life-giving love and redemption are needed and available to us every day of every year, for as long as we dwell on this earth. His payment of the penalty for the sin of the world is not a limited time offer. Therefore, Christmas is not over, even by Super Bowl Sunday, or Valentine’s Day, or Shrove Tuesday or any day after that.
But our commercial culture is firmly wedded to the idea that Christmas is time-limited, and that it must end on December 25. In an effort to exploit potential profits to the greatest possible degree, retailers stretch the season by starting it as early as they can. Christmas decorations and gift ideas appear in stores and online by early September, intended to “put us in the mood” (the mood to buy, that is). Magically, just as Santa manages to deliver all the toys and gifts during the night of December 24, commercial Christmas ends on December 25. Holiday decorations disappear, merchandise is marked down for post holiday sales, and wreaths and bells are replaced by hearts and chocolate. In the world of retail, Christmas takes a long time getting here, but it vanishes in a heartbeat. That’s a shame, in my opinion. There are more than enough blessings in the festival of the Savior’s birth to last till next December 25 and far beyond.
In the secular world, Christmas must move over to make room for the next major festival, Valentine’s Day, which styles itself as the ultimate celebration of love. But it focuses on only one kind of love: human love – only a narrow slice of the breadth of love that God gave to the world he created. It’s not the money we spend on cards and candy that keeps Christmas alive. Romantic love between human beings can’t do that. The only kind of love that can is God’s love for us. Divine love is the soul of Christmas, the wonder of Epiphany, and the heart of our eternal salvation. The Bible captures it in a few powerful words: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (3:16) God’s Son gave up his kingship, and ultimately his human life, showing us that perfect love is sacrificial. The Apostle Paul describes how such love transforms our relationships with each other, so that how we love others reflects God’s love for us: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) Out of God’s love came the gift of his Son to be the means of salvation and reconciliation for all, because God loves all.
It’s fine to enjoy a hearts-and-flowers celebration of love when it’s put into proper context. God is the source of all love and good in the world. It’s the profoundly comforting and reassuring awareness of all that God has done and continues to do for us, whom he loves, that brings lasting joy to the soul – at Christmastide and in every season.