christmas-ornament-701309_1920It’s a new year, over a week after Christmas. Now, I have to say that most of the time, we try to leave our Christmas decorations up as long as we can, at least until January 1st. I know that we should try to keep them up until Epiphany, which is this next Sunday, but there are many times that has been impossible, especially with the tree. I remember one year, after noticing that needles were dropping from the tree faster than leaves on a good and frosty autumn morning. We didn’t want to touch the tree, we couldn’t bump it, for fear that all the needles would fall off.

We decided that Christmas day was going to be the day we took the tree down. Sure, we were careful the week before Christmas, only lighting the tree when we would be in the room with it, Carefully making sure we didn’t smell smoke or light candles within 20 feet of the Christmas tree. So, we began to remove the ornaments, one by one. We remembered once again what each one meant to us, just like when we hung them only a few weeks earlier. We removed the girls’ first ornaments, our first one as a couple, ornaments that we bought each year as a family, and even those that were gifted to us by friends and family. By the time we removed the last ornament, we realized that we also removed every last needle on the tree. Charlie Brown had nothing on our tree that year. Bare sticks were all that was left. I remember feeling grateful that no spark or open flame got anywhere near that tree over the final week or so. Who knows what could have happened.

But then, as I looked where the tree once stood, I thought, is it all gone now? Is the wonder gone? Is the excitement gone? Now that the tree was removed, and the decorations came down, was Christmas really over? There have been years when the feeling of Christmas left right after the gifts were opened, the decorations were down, and the stores all moved ahead, without even a remembrance of what we just experienced. How is that possible? How can we just plug right along into the next season, the next holiday, the next anything, forgetting all about what we just experienced? Is it over?

Christmas is not just a once a year thing. It is not just something that we feel around December 25th, and then put it away just like the decorations, until next year, until the next holiday. When we do, we miss the meaning of this wonderful celebration. The Christmas carols, the lights and sights, the snow, the faces of family and friends, the gifts, all of these helps to remind us of something greater than we are. They remind us of the wonder in this season, the wonder of Christmas. That wonder is the birth of a King, but not just any king. It is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor. This child is Emmanuel, God with us.

So, how do we keep this feeling with us? How do we keep the wonder of Christmas all year long? I think we do this by living a Christlike life. To live as a Christian, as a child of God. It is to love each other, to allow the peace of Christ to live within us, caring for one another.

Remember; Christmas is not a one-time story, but a continual story. The wonder of Christmas is that God is with us. My prayer is that we will all live into that promise of God being with us, so that all who see us will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the promise God gave all of us is real, and it’s for them too. Christmas is the assurance that no matter how far we have traveled from God’s will in our lives, no matter how far we’ve fallen, no matter how much we’ve sinned, or how badly we’ve been hurt, abandoned, judged, or viewed by others, God has come to be with us. To walk with us, to love us, to cry with us, to encourage us, and to redeem us.

You see, Christmas isn’t the whole story, it’s the beginning of the story. And it is a story that continues on through the cross where Jesus offered his life for you and for me, to redeem us, to make us right with God. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we receive the saving grace of God. And it all began with a star, a whisper of a name, the humbleness of a manger, and the hope in a promise.

It is not over. It will never be over. It has only begun.