Feast Days to follow
Christmas is a season on the Christian church calendar. It runs from Christmas day to Epiphany, and includes not only the birth of the Christchild ("Peace on earth, goodwill toward men"), but the feast day of the first martyr, Stephen:
54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7:54-60)There's more violence to come, on the day of the Holy Innocents:
When Herod realized he had been duped by the astrologers, he was outraged. He then issued a death warrant for all the male children in Bethlehem and surrounding region two years old and younger. this corresponded to the time [of the star] that he had learned from the astrologers. With this event the prediction made by Jeremiah the prophet came true: 'In Ramah the sound of mourning and bitter grieving was heard: Rachel weeping for her children. She refused to be consoled: They were no more.' " (Matthew 2: 16-18, SV)I don't think either of those texts ever comes up in the Revised Common Lectionary; not in the entire three year cycle. That story, however, is why the Holy Family makes the journey to Egypt, a journey we often reference and conflate with Luke's story of the trip to Bethlehem, to show how Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees and homeless and seeking shelter from the very beginning.
We forget that in either narrative, Luke's or Matthew's, the cause of the journey was the world; was society; was the powers that be, indifferent to all but the fate of their own power. We forget that the life of the Christchild was precarious. But it would be good to remember; maybe it would cut through the seasonal treacle, the annual tide of artificial bonhomie, the usual haste to get it all over with on time. Ecco homo. Behold the human one; behold the helpless child, rejected by the powers that be from the very beginning. About suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters/....How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting/For the miraculous birth, there always must be" someone who didn't want it to happen at all.
We don't even make much room for Simeon's song.
Now, Lord, you are releasing your servant in peace,There is another story of ending; but that is a life fulfilled, not a life cut short. That is the song of the aged who are reverently, passionately waiting for the miraculous birth. Matthew gives us the sign that shall be spoken against explicitly, and from the beginning; Luke reserves that for the future:
according to your promise.
For I have seen with my own eyes
the deliverance you have made
ready in full view of all nations;
a light that will bring revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.
34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;All of this comes in our Christmastide, our season of celebration that runs from December 25 to January 6th. Even Epiphany is a season of joy; the church calendar doesn't settle down to the hard work of self-examination and preparation again until Ash Wednesday, which most of us know, if at all, as the day after Mardi Gras.
35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
We should season our Christmastide with more than waiting for New Year's.