As this post is going out, the dawn of the morning after Christmas has arrived, and we’ve all been greeted by the aftermath of yesterday’s festivities. Regardless of what the day looks and feels like at this at this point, most of us approach it with a radically different attitude and set of expectations than those we experienced yesterday. The contrast between Christmas morning and the day after didn’t not go unnoticed around our house when I was growing up.
For us kids, Christmas Day always began with unbridled excitement and anticipation. Everyone was smiling and happy even though the day invariably began in the predawn darkness. But the day after would find my mother declaring war on dust, dirt, clutter, and anything out of place. She would launch into a full-blown cleaning frenzy that left no nook or cranny untouched. For some reason, a mission like that was apparently very stimulating for Mom.
The “Day After” Difference ~ In addition to the benefits of physical exercise, cleaning chores seemed to trigger a great deal of curiosity and spurred her quest for knowledge. Amid the dusting and wiping and sweeping and separating trash from non-trash, she would randomly ask rhetorical questions. She was always trying to find out why she was evidently the only one in the family who had figured out how to put clothes on a hanger, or close a cabinet door, or pick things up off the floor, or put anything back where it belonged. Mom was fascinated, too, at how she happened to be the one person in the entire household who was gifted with the ability to discern without any external prompting when a trash can was full, and when toilet paper needed to be replaced. There were additional questions, too, like whether the rest of us had broken arms and were stricken with some kind of weird blindness that couldn’t recognize dirt or clutter. I figured questions like that sort of answered themselves, so I didn’t say anything.
The point is that the music and pageantry that characterizes the lead-in to Christmas Day and the joy of the day itself are much more appealing and uplifting than the day after. Big days are like that. Often, there are harsh realities waiting to unfold, but the joy of the special day acts as a barrier and holds them at bay for a while. Maybe that was intentional.
What If? ~ When it comes to our feasts and festivals, what if self-indulgence and personal enjoyment was never supposed to be the primary objective? Could it be that the Original Architect of big days and major celebrations had something else in mind altogether? What if the Original Sanctifier of events and activities saw them as more than a break from the tedious routines of life? Could it be that we’re missing something? Celebrations can certainly be demanding and sometimes stressful, but they can also act as therapeutic interventions. They can provide a brief respite from other burdens. Celebrations can impart fresh physical and spiritual energy and help equip us to face the challenges waiting for us when the next day dawns. God’s concern goes beyond the big day itself. He’s as concerned, and maybe more so, with whether the impact of our celebrations disappears when the day is over.
Defiant Blessings ~ We’ve been through a year filled with more unanticipated obstacles than we’ve seen in our lifetime. For many, if not most, of us, it was as though the COVID threat forced us to put a mask on Christmas itself and mute the intimate joy that celebrating the birth of our Savior normally affords. But in spite of the many restrictions, the day came equipped with defiant blessings that couldn’t be smothered. And it is that very characteristic that God would have us lay hold of as this challenging ‘day after’ leads us into an uncertain future. A special event that God ordained in Nehemiah illustrates our point:
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.
Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9–10 NKJV)
In Nehemiah’s day, God’s people were overjoyed to be able to hear the Word of God. They wept with a blend of rejoicing and regret. They grieved over their sins, but they also rejoiced to hear that God’s love and His covenant promise offered grace and redemption. The joy they experienced was a spiritual and emotional reaction to the faith that grew out of the truth that the Scriptures revealed. The deep, confident trust in the God that was the centerpiece of their celebration helped prepare them to deal with the challenges that would confront them when the festivities were over. Our current circumstances are different, of course, but we have a similar opportunity.
New Challenges Await ~ We’re leaving the chaos that characterized 2020, but we’re moving toward a new year that will unleash its own attacks. Fresh heartaches and losses will be inflicted and new demands will emerge. We will need all the strength we can possibly acquire, so let’s begin today by reaching back for the power in that Christmas joy we felt yesterday. Then let’s dig deeper. Let’s reach back for all those moments in all those Christmases and all those Easter mornings when the joy of what God has done was overwhelming. Then let’s store it up for that day when we may wonder whether God has forgotten us.
We have just been blessed with a coordinated opportunity to rejoice together and celebrate a very special day. Now the day after has arrived, and we must decide what to do with it. We can pack our Christmas joy away with the other holiday trappings, and forget it until next year. Or . . . we can re-energize the faith that the Christmas story reinforces and apply its strength like God intended. We can remember that it’s the “joy of the Lord,” not the joy of our circumstances, that produces overcoming faith and allows us to be a living, transforming expression of what Jesus came to offer.
If you want to do your “day after” rejoicing with a dust mop and broom, that would be okay, I guess — just smile more, and try not to ask all those rhetorical questions.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “God’s concern goes beyond Christmas Day itself. He’s as concerned, and maybe more so, with whether the impact of our celebrations disappears when the day is over.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “In spite of the many restrictions, Christmas Day came equipped with defiant blessings that couldn’t be smothered. It is that very characteristic that God would have us lay hold of as this challenging ‘day after’ leads us into an uncertain future.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The deep, confident trust in the God that was the centerpiece of His people’s celebration helped prepare them to deal with the challenges that would confront them when the festivities were over. Our current circumstances are different, of course, but we have a similar opportunity.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Reach back for all those moments in all those Christmases and all those Easter mornings when the joy of what God has done was overwhelming. Then store it up for that day when we may wonder whether God has forgotten us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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