It's not easy to party for twelve days.
Our celebrations typically last for no more than a day. We have a great time, eating, drinking and dancing, and then collapse, exhausted, until the reality of life catches up with us again the following morning.
But to celebrate for twelve days? That's only possible with some extremely powerful substances! Or, perhaps, by going somewhere so remote that you're able to forget about everything—not easy these days! We're simply not able to forget about how life really is for that long. We soon hear the news about another disaster. Or our fears for the future haunt us again. Or the drudgery of day-to-day life becomes impossible to ignore any longer.
And yet a twelve-day celebration is precisely what Christmas is, traditionally.
How can Christians celebrate for twelve days? Are we really supposed to be so other-worldly that we are able to shut our eyes completely to the ugliness of the world around us?
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).
The darkness is still there, but we no longer need to hide from the darkness. We can rejoice and celebrate, even while the darkness is staring us in the face, because Jesus, the true light, has come into the world, and he has defeated the darkness.
As Keith Sinclair, my local bishop (of Birkenhead), put it in his Christmas message in the Wirral Globe,
Jesus is the light that has come into the world, and the darkness will never overcome the light because he went to the darkest place for the darkest of reasons and that darkness, though he died because of it, didn’t defeat him because he rose again, and will raise us up as we put our trust in him.
So let the party continue—at least for another day. And once you've got the hang of celebrating for twelve days, why not make a habit of it, and carry that joy with you into the rest of 2014?