The morning after is always a letdown.
You look forward to something big–an event, a milestone, a day. Anticipation and expectations soar. And after it’s all over–things remain disappointingly unchanged.
No matter who I kiss on New Year’s Eve or what massive lifestyle changes I resolve to make, the person who wakes up on January 1st is still the same person who failed to keep those resolutions the year before, whose resolve crumbles as soon as chips and dip are placed in front of her.
I used to look forward to my birthday all year long when I was little, but the day after was the biggest disappointment. My birthday came and went, and now I was simply one step closer to “old” and 364 days away from more presents.
We spend all year looking forward to Christmas. Advent calendars count down to the long-anticipated coming–of Santa or of Jesus, or maybe both. But the day after Christmas is an awkward one. Wrapping paper lies crumpled in the trash, presents have been opened, played with, and have already started to lose their shine, and festive decorations a day ago have now become clutter to pack and put away until next year.
December 26th feels hollow: the magic has come and gone, Santa ate all my cookies, I am one day closer to going back to work/school, and I didn’t get you for Christmas after all.
I can only imagine what it must’ve been like in Bethlehem after the Magi came and went. The frankincense and myrrh sat opened and untouched, while Mary and Joseph were left with a newborn baby who kept them up at night, who cried and pooped and made messes, who landed on a hit list that forced them to pack up and flee.
They left the presents and took the baby. December 26th is the day where we tear down the trappings of Christmas and find ourselves left with the real deal: Emmanuel. God who is with us, whose arrival we celebrate, but whose presence fills our lives every day thereafter.
I think Christmas is a lot like a wedding. A grand day to gather with loved ones and celebrate and commemorate. - but always bringing with it the dangerous temptation to elevate the day and miss the person. The wedding isn’t about the wedding. It’s about the marriage. It’s about the morning after the wedding. And the morning after that. And the lifetime of mornings you now get to spend with this person.
December 26th is a letdown when we elevate the day and miss the person. Christmas isn’t about the day you open presents and gather with family and sing “Joy to the World.” Christmas is about the morning after. And the morning after that. And the morning after that. Christmas brings hope for every day after it.
Christmas is about God’s relentless, undeterred pursuit of us, His commitment to be with His people, His commitment to love His people that led Him to make His presence known–and permanent.
God is with us on December 26th. And every day after that. He is there when the lights are taken down. He is there when your tree is dried up and becomes a fire hazard. He is there on the days that aren’t so filled with cookies and glitter and bows. He is there when “Christmas cheer” has worn off and we are petty, disappointed, disillusioned, or selfish. He is there the morning after, and the morning after that, day in and day out–and even death can’t part Him from us.
So let’s celebrate December 26th with as much gusto as we do the 25th–because it’s the morning after, and He is with us still.