Keeping Christmas all year

How can the few days after Christmas be so different from the days before? Just a few days ago many people were caught up in a frenzy of last minute shopping, food preparation, and enjoying the lights and festivities of the season including gatherings with family and friends. Now many find themselves tired and glad it’s all over. In the true spirit of Christmas, shouldn’t the real celebration come after the 25th? Shouldn’t the tree stay up longer to remind us of its meaning? Shouldn’t the gifts and good cheer so readily given before Christmas be shared after?

The “Legend of the Poinsettia” and a story, ” The Three Levels of Christmas” serve as reminders of the true meaning of the holiday.

The flower of the Holy Night, more commonly known as the poinsettia, is called the “flor de la Nochebuena” in Mexico. Brought to the United States by Joel Poinsett, the ambassador to Mexico in 1825, the flower quickly found favor because of its vibrant beauty.

It is the legend behind it that makes the poinsettia a classic Christmas story. According to tradition, there was a young girl in Mexico who had no gift for the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve church service. Embarrassed because she only had a small handful of green weeds from the roadway, she nonetheless took them as an offering, having faith that even a small gift, if from the heart, is beautiful to Jesus.

Miraculously, the tops of the weeds turned into bright red flowers in the shape of stars. This flower of the Holy Night is said to be a reminder of the Star of Bethlehem that signaled the birth of Christ, with its red color a symbol of His future sacrifice for all mankind to have eternal life.

There is another story to remind us of the true celebration of Christmas for the weeks and months after the holiday. It goes beyond Santa and even Christ in the manger. The “Three Levels of Christmas” from “Christmas Classics” by W. Smart, reveals the deepest and most meaningful aspect of Christmas. It shows the real impact it can have for those willing to partake of it and was shared in an earlier Christmas Day column in 2011.

The first level as expressed by Smart is the “Santa Claus” level. It’s a fun stage with shopping, pretty packages, excited children, parties, and plenty of good food. Nearly every minute of it is loved. In reality though, how long can it last? It’s too intense to maintain and eventually the needles fall from the tree and toys become old hat. Only so much rich food can be eaten and the need for dieting begins and decorations are put away. It’s a part of Christmas we leave behind.

Yet another level of Christmas, a higher level, is what we might call the “Silent Night” level. It’s the story of the birth of Christ so beautifully told in the Book of Luke in the Bible. This sacred level of Christmas brings glad tidings from Bethlehem with the manger and shepherds. But as W. Smart asks, how many times can one sing “Silent Night?” That night alone, or keeping Christ in the manger, can’t satisfy our needs and will leave us feeling empty.

It’s the third level of Christmas that can be celebrated each and every day. It is called the “Adult Christ” level. Although Christ needed to be born to fulfill His mission, it is not the infant that brings lasting peace or joy. It was the adult Christ “who reached out and touched the untouchable, who loved the unlovable, who so loved us all that even in His agony on the cross He prayed forgiveness for His enemies.” The adult Christ gave His life willingly and was the perfect example with the invitation to follow Him. As scripture says, as we follow Christ, we will find everything that matters.

So, as Christmas has passed just a few days ago, think about what levels have been celebrated. The first is fun and the second is sacred, but it is the third level that can last all year long. We will never grow tired from it. It is a gift we can accept and share with others over and over in true Christmas spirit. Even in the old-time cartoon “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” said that Christmas tells us to share our time, talents and love. Make it a great year in the true meaning of Christmas.