Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Best Part of Christmas

Of course, the great Eucharists of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are beautiful and impressive. They emphasize the majestic and glorious aspects of the Incarnation. The Prayer Book feasts of St. Stephen, St. John, and Holy Innocents highlight important realities and theological themes.  They remind us of sacrifice, martyrdom, and divine love incarnate. Yet, for me personally, the other days of the Christmas Octave often seem to be the best part of Christmas.

As the year closes, the bustle has diminished, eating a lot is no longer expected, and the Daily Offices and Eucharists can embody a quieter sense of devotion and joy over the Birth of our Saviour. In Morning Prayer, the antiphon still calls us to adore Him. The Te Deum embodies the Creed in a powerful and wonderful form of praise, and the Benedictus has even greater meaning in retrospect than it did before the Nativity. In Evening Prayer, we think of the holy night. The Magnificat has a new and deeper application as we think of the Blessed  Mother with the Holy Child, and the Nunc Dimittis points us to true peace in Christ's light. In the Eucharist, the daily repetition of the Christmas Collect and the Proper Preface for Christmas drive home the true significance of the celebration, and the Gloria in Excelsis seems more than ever the song of the angels. The message of divine grace and love enters into our hearts more strongly.

There are indeed many lovely and important aspects of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the Octave, and the Twelve Days. There are pretty carols, candles, vestments, flowers, and greenery. There are important themes and great services. I am not denying or ignoring the role of those things. Yet for me, these quieter times of devotion help to elevate a sense of divine joy above mere holiday merry-making. May the good tidings of great joy of the Saviour remain with us past the Octave and into the New Year. Christmas is not over; its true significance is just beginning to sink in- and should continue to come into our hearts again and again throughout the church year.