The Sunday that follows Christmas is always the celebration of the Holy Family. There are wonderful readings from the Book of Sirach, the First Book of Samuel, and Paul’s letter to the Colossians or the First Letter of John. The Gospel is the story of the teenaged Jesus teaching in the temple while his parents could not find him. Jesus goes back home with his family. “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”
Continuing our special feasts in the days after Christmas, Monday is the Feast of St. John, the Apostle. Tuesday is the moving Feast of the Holy Innocents, remembering the infant martyrs of Herod’s jealous rage. Wednesday is the Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas. We have the story of the Purification in the temple and the powerful words of Simeon about Jesus and about Mary. Thursday, the Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas, is the story from Luke’s Gospel of Joseph and Mary meeting the prophetess, Anna in the Temple who gives thanks to God for the child, Jesus “to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” Friday is the Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas. The Gospel is the beginning of John’s Gospel. Saturday, New Year’s Day is the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. In addition, it is a celebration of World Day of Prayer for Peace.
On Sunday, January 2nd, the U.S. and some parts of the world will celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, although some countries will celebrate it on Thursday, January 6. The Epiphany celebrates the light that has come into the darkness of the world and that our salvation was made known to the Gentiles. Where the Epiphany is not celebrated, the Second Sunday of Christmas will have the beginning of John’s Gospel and its poetic images of light and the Word.
Each day after Christmas celebrates another aspect of the mystery of Jesus’ coming among us and opens us to his continuing to come to us now. It helps to recognize this and let ourselves enter this part of the mystery of the Incarnation. We are living in the flesh each day of our lives. He came to enter this life and be with us in it. After Christmas, we have a few days to let the blessing of Christmas settle in. Each one of us can begin our post-Christmas and the beginning of our New Year’s time by staying in touch with ourselves in the flesh – as people touched by Jesus’ coming. We can turn to our Lord throughout each day and have real conversations with our Savior. Over the kitchen sink, by the dishwasher, in front of the washing machine. While going to work, walking, going to a meeting, returning from one.
During our preparation for Christmas, we were asking the Lord to open our hearts, to let us wait with patient trust, and to come to us. Last week, we experienced joy and the mixed challenges of Christmas. This week, we have the opportunity to have ordinary conversations with our God who came to be with us. Thank you so much, Lord, for becoming flesh for me. And, thank you for being with me now, in the midst of each day’s joys and sorrows. I ask you to increase my trust in you, my desire for closeness with you and my commitment to turn to you all day long. Continue to be with me when I have to make difficult decisions, when I need extra patience and care when in challenging situations. Continue to let my heart experience the joy of Christmas this week as I see signs of your presence with me.
When these words take on our own voice and our details, it will feel very personal. And, when we speak about our fears, our needs, when we express our gratitude and our deep desires, we are living an intimate relationship with the one who became flesh that we might never need to feel alone again.