I regret the practice of discarding all things Christmas so soon after December 25, as if the journey is complete. Maybe it is because we begin celebrating the holy day six weeks or more before the feast that, by the time Christmas Day comes and goes, we’re done. Trees discarded to the curb, wreaths and stockings packed away, wrapping paper and creche stored until next year.
But for me, I cherish the days that take us from the Nativity to the Epiphany, perhaps more so in this unbelievably difficult year. These are the days that carry the most Christmas meaning precisely because the hype is over and life calms down. It’s this image of “the journey” that resonates within me. It’s a journey that can only begin with the birth of Jesus.
Certainly, Mary and Joseph making their way to Bethlehem and the journey of the wise men come to mind, but so too the journey the Holy Family will take to Egypt to seek safety. Less known—but certain nonetheless—is the journey back to the fields of the shepherds where they share their experience at the manger in Bethlehem. Some of us may recall the 1985 movie, The Fourth Wise Man, the story of another wise man whose own journey to Bethlehem is waylaid only to find Jesus, finally, in Jerusalem on the Cross.
“It’s the journey, not the destination” is a familiar saying that urges us not miss what is happening now, not to be blind to the graces in the moment. Christmas did not end yesterday; it only just began. It’s okay to put away the Christmas decorations, but maybe we can see that as preparing ourselves for our own Christmas journey in the days and year ahead. What experiences of the birth of Jesus will I share with those I encounter along the way, on my Christmas journey that begins today?
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and was the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.