We are happy to say that it is still Christmas at Restoration! Merry Christmas! On the Church Calendar Christmas lasts from December 25 through January 5—or the twelve days of Christmas. But this isn’t just a quaint bit of history that we remember as we pack away the tree and ornaments. It is an invitation to an ongoing feast as we celebrate that Jesus has come to us!
The significant days on the Church calendar are broken out into feasting days and fasting days. And though fasting days are not fun, we somehow innately understand that solemness and fasting seems more spiritual. We expect that God will be pleased by our self-denial and self-reflection and so setting aside a season like Advent or Lent for fasting appeals to us.
But what about feasting? Every fast on the Church calendar is a preparation for a feast. Advent leads up to Christmas. Lent leads up to Easter. Clearly fasting isn’t the goal of our spiritual lives: it is the preparation of our hearts to participate in a sacred yet joyful celebration centered on the events of the life of Jesus. Fasting without feasting cuts at the heart of the joy that we have as followers of Jesus. We are not on a mission of self-improvement through denial. We are called to union with Jesus, sharing in his sorrows and delighting in his joy. Celebrating the good news of Jesus is a significant part of our lives as Christians.
As I learned about the importance of feasting for the spiritual lives of Christians I also realized that I wasn’t equipped with the skills to keep feasting for days on end. I know how to over-eat on Thanksgiving but who can keep that up for twelve days? Thankfully, feasting isn’t only about food. The word feast shares a root with festival which is simply a joyful or merry period of time. But feasting is more than just a party, which is also good because a party (or worse, party as a verb) is often something that we associate with regret the next morning. Maybe this is why Christians have often assumed that holiness looks dour and somber instead of joyful and lively.
A feast on the Church calendar is a time to revel in the truth that God has invited us to come near to him in Christ. True joy springs from the freedom that we have in Christ. We are free to celebrate Christmas with pure hearts and clean hands! In this season, share the story of the nativity over and over, in songs, films, and stories. Fill your days with friends and family sharing leisurely meals and enjoying the company of others. Invite people who feel left out of the joy of the season to participate in your feast and look after the needs of others. Keep giving gifts and, by all means, leave up the lights and the tree for another week. Keeping the feast is one of the most holy things you can do this Christmas!