The calendar says January 31st but if you walked into our living room right now, this is what you would see. Our Christmas tree is still up in all its nine-foot splendor, and it actually won’t be until tomorrow- February 1st, Super Bowl Sunday- that it finally comes down. It would be handy to report that we still have it up because Kathy and I are members of a small sect of Lutherans who actually celebrate Christmas one month later than the rest of Christendom – but I think there are too many people who were present when I sang O Holy Night on the 24th of December for that tall tale to have much credence. No, we still have our Christmas tree up because we haven’t yet taken it down. There’s really no explanation beyond that, except that we couldn’t get it safely down the basement stairs until I had removed the fifteen boxes of books I had deposited on the stairs and landing in anticipation of bringing them to the AAUW for their annual sale. That drop-off finally happened today- clearing the way, both literally and figuratively, for our Christmas tree to be brought downstairs for yet another year of hibernation.
All this brings to mind a complaint which came to my attention earlier this week from a member of Holy Communion’s Worship and Music committee. I was told that there had been complaints that we hadn’t sung enough beloved Christmas carols on the Sundays following Christmas (which are officially part of the Christmas season) and as the person who chooses all the hymns, I end up being the Scrooge of this tale. And it’s true to some extent; I just can’t bring myself to choose anything like “Away in a Manger” or “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” once we’re past Christmas night itself – but evidently “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is not the sort of toe-tapping, stocking-stuffing carol that people still want to be singing on January 4th. (The last Sunday of the Christmas season by our liturgical calendar.) But as far as I’m concerned, the hymns I chose were perfectly fine and appropriate and I could scarcely suppress my huffy resentment at such a complaint being raised in the first place. (I get similarly huffy at the complaint that we should be singing Christmas carols on the Sundays before Christmas – when we are supposed to be celebrating Advent. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I do not like singing Christmas hymns ahead of schedule just because that’s what’s playing over the loudspeaker at Walgreen’s.)
And then it occurred to me. . . the people who want to still be singing “O Come all ye Faithful” and “Joy to the World” on January 4th probably want that for the same reason that I like having our Christmas tree up through Super Bowl Sunday. We don’t like to give up the light and warmth and joy of Christmas – and maybe this year, with so many people struggling and fearful for the future, that’s truer than ever. And it actually makes me regret that I didn’t stick in a lively “Angels we have heard on high” somewhere in the mix of those two Sundays after Christmas in the interest of a little extra Christmas cheer. We all need as much of that as we can get these days.