A UMC.org feature by Joe Iovino*
After months of planning and anticipation, Christmas appears to be over all too quickly. On December 26, retailers tell us we are in the after-Christmas season of returns, exchanges, and more sales. The church calendar however, tells us it is still Christmas.
The 12 days we sing about in that crazy song, are a real season, sometimes called Christmastide or the days after Christmas leading to Epiphany on January 6. During this season, we continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh who made his home among us (John 1:14 CEB).
To help celebrate the season, here are 12 creative, simple ideas that have nothing to do with partridges or lords-a-leaping.
Have a silent night
One evening, turn off everything electronic and share Christmas memories. Go through old photos. Watch family movies (you might need to turn on the television for that). Ask others to tell of their favorite family Christmas tradition, and a joy-filled memory of a Christmas past. Spend a few moments talking about the Christmas story and the characters with whom you most relate
Singing and learning about the carols we sing can be a wonderful way to continue the Christmas celebrations. Photo illustration by Kathryn Price, United Methodist Communications.
Sing the songs of Christmas
We sing many Christmas carols without thinking much about the words. Take some time to research the lyrics of songs as you sing them. Where is the author biblically accurate? Where did she or he take poetic license? This is a great way to learn the biblical accounts of the Christmas story and some of the symbolism used.
Remember the refugees
One of the crises in our world in recent years is the number of refugees risking their lives to leave war-torn nations to find places of safety and peace. If a church or another organization in your area is sponsoring refugees find out how you can help. Offer your support and prayers.
Additionally, make efforts to be a person of radical hospitality by welcoming the stranger, giving food to the hungry, visiting church members who do not get out, and opening your home to family and friends who are alone.
Don’t return — give
Rather than returning the ugly sweater you’ll never wear or the kitchen gadget you’ll never use, give it away! Many places and individuals will benefit from those unwanted items. The sweater will keep someone warm, and the gadget will be sold in a secondhand store to generate funds for a ministry.
Pray through your un-decorating
As you put away the Christmas decorations, consider the symbols of the tree and evergreens, the Nativity, the wreath, and more. Pray that those these signs may get packed away for 11 months, the spirit of Christ will continue to be alive in you throughout the year ahead.
The Magi, whose figurines we set up with our Nativity scenes each year, returned home by a different route. We can do the same during the Christmas season. Photo by Kathryn Price.
Travel by a different route
The Christmas story contains several journeys — Mary visits Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph travel to be taxed, the Wise Men follow the star to Bethlehem, and Jesus and his family move to Egypt when King Herod orders the slaughter of baby boys. Many of us go on special journeys over Christmas, in addition to the time we spend in the car every day.
Consider traveling by a different route. Maybe that means taking the back way home from work or stopping by that roadside attraction as you return from Grandmother’s house. Let the new journey remind you that we are to follow Jesus wherever he leads.
Have mealtime devotions
Each of the 12 days of Christmas, spend some time during a meal for family reflection. Ask questions. Share concerns. Tell stories. Give thanks. Sense the presence of Jesus among you.
Pray for the persecuted
Those of us privileged to live in places where we are free to pursue our faith sometimes forget there are people in other places whose celebrations of Christmas could come at the cost of their freedom or lives. Take some special time to pray for them.
Record aha moments
Christmas can be a time of important moments you do not want to forget. A quiet moment with a relative may remind you of the importance of family. A worship service may give you new insight into how to live as a follower of Jesus. A frustrating experience in a store may encourage you to be more patient. Write those insights some place you can return in the weeks and months ahead for a reminder.
Plant a tree
At Christmas, we celebrate the gift of new, eternal life we have received in Christ. The evergreen trees we decorate are a symbol of everlasting life. Planting a tree or caring for the earth in another way can serve as a wonderful reminder of our call to be people who celebrate life.
The dove, prevalent in Christmas decorations, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and of peace. Photo by Steven Kyle Adair, United Methodist Communications.
Begin a faithful intention
Many people make New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight or give up an unhealthy habit. Consider a faithful intention this year to help you grow in your spiritual life. Rather than waiting until January 1 to begin, start during the Christmas season.
Be a person of peace
We may not be able to do much to promote world peace, but we have the power to make the world around us more peaceful. Spend the twelve days of Christmas practicing ways you can eliminate harsh words, anger, and other negative attitudes from your life.
Editor’s note: This article was first published on December 22, 2015, with updates on December 22, 2020.