Friday, December 25, 2009

On the First Day of Christmas...

Merry Christmas and Happy First Day of Christmas for those of you just getting started.

One of my fondest memories of Christmas growing up is my dad sitting in a cozy, overstuffed chair in his pajamas. All day. While there's such great blessing in having family nearby, we rarely did growing up, and so we'd occasionally have a dinner on Christmas Eve with friends from church. But Christmas Day was wonderful and glorious because not only were there piles of presents and new toys and books and games, but Dad was home and we did nothing all day long. But it was particularly exciting to watch Dad do nothing. What a gift. This was a glorious picture to the family of Sabbath rest. Like God on the seventh day, doing nothing. Having worked hard, having piled up gifts all around his children, he sat down and rested, and that is a gift. It was all the more amazing because Dad never did that. He always got up early to work on something, frequent meetings in the evenings, and an all around busy schedule. And on Christmas, he just sat there in his chair. He'd look at books, snack on whatever little tidbits of food were making the rounds, maybe peak at a few minutes of a new movie, but just sit there mostly and probably doze off in the late afternoon sun.

We're still trying to figure out how to handle extended feasting. What should 12 days of Christmas look like all grown up? Or how about 7 weeks of Easter for that matter? In some ways, I don't think the 12 Days is so far off. Many already take a full week off from Christmas Eve through New Years which is a good start. Seems to me that a couple weeks of feasting does not require Thanksgiving style meals every single day. I have one friend who makes a list of the family's favorite foods and drinks (with input from the kids) and picks one or two things for each day. Those favorite foods and drinks are out on the table (or counter) all day long. But just resting is a kind of feasting. Sitting around enjoying friends and family, playing games, taking naps, reading together, trying out new toys, snacking on the favorite foods, singing, all of this is feasting.

Of course we might try to extend some of the gift giving. One cool benefit to doing a few more gifts after Christmas Day is the ensuing post-Christmas sales. So far, we've gone with giving one more gift on Epiphany (the 13th day after Christmas). And we've tended to theme our gifting on Epiphany. One year we did a music theme (several new CD's). The last couple of years we've done games: card games, board games, etc. The last couple of years my wife has also baked a Kings' Cake which is a traditional Epiphany activity. We go down to the bank and get a gold dollar coin and a silver half dollar and bake them in a cake. Later that night, we serve up the cake and whoever comes up with a coin in their slice gets to keep the coin. I suppose this is just a fun way of remembering the Magi and their gifts as well as the Epiphany celebration of Jesus being light to the nations and our confident hope that they will all bring their riches into the Kingdom.

I've got another friend who says they're starting a new tradition of burning the Christmas tree on Epiphany, which I must admit sounds fantastic. We have made a point to keep the tree up through Epiphany for a number of years, though the tree is dried to a crisp by that point, every slight vibration in the room causing an avalanche of needles to fall. And this is all the more compounded by the fact that we usually get our tree for the First Sunday of Advent. Some Christian needs to figure out how to make *live* trees last for 6 weeks. But at this point, I'm convinced that our Christmas Tree Fire (should we have one) would be fairly short lived.

At the very least, we've planned the next 12 days as days of rest with activities interspersed. In addition to two Lord's Days with worship, we have a couple of family get-togethers, an ice skating outing one day, bowling another day, and probably a trip to the movies somewhere in there as well. We've also got a babysitter for a date one evening. I plan to emulate my father as much as possible in between the activities, holding down one of the couches with a cup of coffee in hand and a short stack of books nearby. There will likely be small people climbing around me here and there and toys and books and food, and don't be surprised if you find me dozing off in the late afternoon sun. I've got traditions to keep.


Peter Jones said...

Toby thanks for that post. How rarely do fathers model rest for their childen. Thanks also for the thoughts on how to celebrate. I like the theme idea. That would give some direction to the extra gifts we give.
Peter Jones, Pastor
Christ Church of Morgantown

Ashley said...

That sounds wonderful! Thank you for the ideas. With our first baby on the way, we're excited by the thought of what traditions we can start as a bigger family next Christmas, and I think the "12 days" would be a great one. I'm not sure how Brandon would feel about us burning our artificial Christmas tree, though. I'm sure dangerous fumes and electric fires would be an issue. I suppose we'll leave the tree burning to the year we're brave enough to get a real one!

Matthew N. Petersen said...

We should have more frequent church services. That would be the full way to celebrate Christ-mass for twelve days. Of course, feasting etc. is necessary. But it needs to be in the context of corporate prayer celebrating the nativity, and praising God for the nativity.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for making our Christmas so special. I am really enjoying it. And folks out there reading this, don't imagine this man is in any way lazy. All of this resting in jammies is in between diapering the baby every time, drilling the kids on yes and no sir/maam and catechism, tidying Christmas toys/mess, giving me a day off to go shopping,doing dishes for me, and baking an amazing rum cake. He is giving me great rest!
Thank you, Babe! Your wife of almost 10 years, Jenny.

btwcoach said...

Thanks Toby for this great post!!! I can just picture Mark in his chair.... :-) I think he learned that from my dad and his dad.... hahaha!
You are a wonderful husband and father! Your kids are amazing! I hope to meet them "in person" this summer in Texas!!!
Love, Aunt Molly