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Christ is Born!

On this the 4th day of Christmas I wish you all the joy and beauty during this Nativity season.

Despite what the culture around us says, Christmas just began on the 25th of December, not ended. We are excited to be celebrating all week long. I was very pleasantly surprised to see this reminder on the front page of the Fargo/Moorhead Newspaper on Saturday, Christmas Eve.

One of the first things I did when we moved here was to subscribe to the local paper…in print! It is one of the best ways to get to know a new area. This paper is only printed twice a week and on Saturday’s edition front and center was an article titled “Advent’s Anticipation”.

I thought I’d share it with you.

The Christmas season has not begun. This season of anticipation and preparation is called Advent. It’s a very different thing.

We are a culture that celebrates anticipation. We seem to be more excited, most aware, when we know something is coming before it gets here. The potential, even for the smallest things, always seems huge.

Today is Christmas Eve. The Christmas season is exuberantly a season of anticipation, and everything about it has been leading up to this moment. Tonight, Santa Claus will once more take to the air and bring gifts worldwide. Tonight, a child is born in Bethlehem.

There is something about a promise. Something about waiting for the extraordinary. With the Christmas season, it’s not only that we’re giving or hoping to receive a gift, although we certainly are. It’s a promise that life will become a bit richer, a bit more filled, a bit less isolated and wandering. A gift comes from someone else. Giving the gift is an act of communion and love.

In truth, though, the Christmas season has not begun. This season of anticipation and preparation is called Advent. It’s a very different thing.

Advent means arrival. The first day of Advent is the beginning of the liturgical calendar and the start of a four-week time of preparation. We are getting ready for Christmas. Much like Lent before Easter, Advent is meant to be a time of reflection. A time to experience hope and recenter our lives.

Although Advent calendars begin on Dec. 1, Advent actually began this year on Nov. 27. It’s always on the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Andrew, the first Apostle. The four Sundays of Advent have themes represented by candles: the Candle of Hope, the Candle of Peace, the Candle of Love and the Candle of Joy. These themes are promises, wishes, anticipations. And then there is a fifth candle, which represents the birth of Christ, the promise made real.

Advent calendars give a gift each day. A piece of chocolate. An ornament. There is always a bit of mystery and discovery as small windows open to reveal the gift, a bit of joy when a hope is given form. One small gift each day to celebrate something on its way.

There is a radio station in town which, every year, changes completely for the holiday season. At midnight on Nov. 25, the moment our attention turns from Thanksgiving, rock and roll gives way to Christmas songs. This year, it began with Johnny Mathis, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Until midnight on Dec. 26, the station will be all Christmas music.

I know that song. It is one my personal favorites. The whole song is in the future tense, describing what is to come.

“With the kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you be of good cheer. … There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow. … There will be much mistltoeing, and hearts will be glowing, when loved ones are near.”

What we love here is hope for the future, a hope for peace and joy.

Think of other Christmas songs. “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “All I want for Christmas is You.” Every one of them is a song of something in the future.

Advent ends this evening. Tomorrow is Christmas! So perhaps it’s better to say tomorrow is the first day of Christmas. It is the beginning of a new church year. A gift is made present in the world.

But there is one more season to consider. A season not of promise, but a season of how to accept a gift. It begins today, this evening, at sunset. In the church calendar, it’s called “Christmastide.” It runs for 12 days.

Although rarely thought of these days, tomorrow begins the time of the Magi’s journey. We begin waiting for the Epiphany. Twelfth Night, Jan. 5, is when the three kings arrived at the manger and were transformed. This is where the song, the Twelve Days of Christmas, comes from. Much like Advent, where gifts celebrate the approaching holy, the gifts in the song celebrate the ability to actually see, to be in the presence of that miracle.

Tomorrow is Christmas. With luck, tomorrow will be, for everyone, a day of comfort and joy. A day of family and friends and peace.

Tomorrow will be a day of celebration. We will celebrate the birth of Christ, in the past and promised once more in the future, and with Christmas comes the idea that our lives can be working to make the universe a more holy place. We will arrive once more at the manger and be transformed.

Advent ends this evening. Anticipation and hope will become the given gift. A gift that asks us to lead meaningful lives. Christmas should be in our hearts throughout the year.

In 12 days, after all the pipers piping and the golden rings, we will celebrate our ability to be present and accept the gift meant for us.

Tomorrow is the first day of Christmas.

Opinion by W. Scott Olsen / Special to The Forum

So, today is the fourth day of Christmas. We will celebrate today with our family, have a meal, play some games and maybe even go for a walk in the snow!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Susan

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