The coffee cup is hot in my hands. I sit under the Christmas tree in my empty house and loop my fingers through the warm handle, mesmerized by the twinkling lights reflected in the inky blackness of my cup.
The frenzy is over. All the Christmas presents have been opened and put away. Our guests have come and gone. Up in the loft, the air mattress exhales softly next to a pile of quilts waiting to be washed. The fridge is choked with leftovers and Christmas cookies grow stale on the counter. Five limp stockings hang by the fireplace.
Out in the world, under the rush of highways and the urgency of clocks that never cease, stores are hauling out next year’s calendars and Valentine’s candy.
The message rings loud and clear: Christmas is over. The curtain has closed on the show we’ve been building up to all year long, and there is nothing more to look forward to but the cold emptiness of January.
We’ve barely cracked Jesus out of the Styrofoam and plunked him in the manger on Christmas morning when it is time to pack him up again.
There’s something very backwards about that, I think, and I feel the need to linger here a little longer under the twinkling lights on the carefully-crafted stage, believing with all my heart that Christmas is not the end but the beginning.
All the awful expectation, the groaning under never-ending Advent days, the weariness of waiting for a cure that will not come—is over. He has come.
Finally, I am free. I am free from the empty striving of the holiday season and the vain attempts to produce peace and joy by my doings. Here, in the days after Christmas, I find my rest.
I sit in the midst of beautiful adornment and I think that now, now, all the glory is appropriate because now my rescuer has come. Now, the Son has dawned.
Now we can begin to celebrate, now when most everyone is packing away the ornaments and hauling the tree to the curb.
But oh, I do not want to pack it in now. I want to throw open the curtain, cut the ribbon, and begin here. I want to sit under the lights and let the incarnation in.
Wonder at the brightest beginning we could ever hope for, the beginning that trumps all other beginnings, the page-turner that leads into a beautiful New Year’s and lovely Valentine’s and the glorious climax of Easter.
This is where the story starts. Christmas day is over, but Christmas—Christ with us!—has just begun.