With yesterday's feast of the Lord's Baptism, another Christmas season has come to its end as all good things in this world must do sooner or later. In the next few days, the church's Christmas Tree will be sent to recycling and the creche will be stored away for another year. (In many more traditionally Catholic countries, the creche stays up until Candlemas Day. Thus, in Rome two years ago, I was able to visit many a pesebre in church after church up until the beginning of February.)
In my teens, I knew someone whose family left their Christmas Tree up - presumably in a minimally heated part of the house - until mid-March. I can appreciate the impulse to keep Christmas going the entire winter, but that seems somewhat impractical for most people. And perhaps it maybe misses part of the point of having a holiday like Christmas. It seems to me to be in the very nature of festivity that it is limited to a set time, different from the rest of the time, different from "ordinary" time. For holidays to be truly special, they must be exceptional. Christmas comes but once a year, so the saying goes. And that's precisely why it is so special, so precious, such a treasure to be looked forward to with new enthusiasm each year and kept in remembrance afterwards.
Christmas is our annual break from those ordinary routines that define our ordinary time. But those routines are the who, what, when, where, and how of human living. And, properly understood and faithfully celebrated, Christmas can continue to inform those regular routines of our ordinary time. Obviously, one can't give gifts every day or host holiday celebrations on a daily basis. But Christmas properly understood and faithfully celebrated is a means by which joy and hope, generosity and authentic outreach, may be effectively internalized - thus re-defining, so to speak, even our "ordinary" time. That, after all, was the lesson one special Christmas taught Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge. His holiday afterword transformed his entire life and also remade the world around him
And isn't that the ultimate point of the incarnation?