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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Christmas Season

I really don't mind the commercial season's build-up to Christmas. Many of the more popular Christmas songs are songs in preparation for Christmas day. It seems fitting to hear them before Christmas and not after.

At the same time, it is nice to fully celebrate the liturgical Christmas season. The Twelve Days of Christmas begins, not ends, on Christmas day. The Church also receives the "Gloria" back as it was omitted from use during Advent. It returns again when the angels in heaven sing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" (Glory to God in the highest). The angels sing at the nativity and in the presence of the shepherds who come to visit Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. Certain Christmas songs make sense to be heard only in this season. Music is designed to help us appreciate the movements of our church year. It helps us worship aspect of God's work in and through Jesus.

Christmas is celebrated in the Octave (eight days), but also lasts until Epiphany, which is somewhere around January 6th when the magi from the East follow the star to Bethlehem to see the infant king. This part of Christmas makes up the Twelve Days of Christmas. This year, the Christmas season is truncated and Epiphany is commemorated on January 2nd.

In the Christmas Octave, we celebrate Stephen, the first martyr; John the Evangelist who was close to Jesus; the Holy Innocents who were slaughtered by Herod, the Holy Family and their flight into and out of Egypt, Thomas Becket, and Sylvester I. The rich readings highlight the major moments of early days of Jesus and his family.

In days of old, the Presentation of the Lord (February 2nd) and Candlemas concluded the Christmas season. Christmas ends and Ordinary time begins at the Baptism of the Lord, which is on January 9th. This means we have quite a few weeks of ordinary time before Ash Wednesday (March 9th) and Lent (March 13 - April 21st.)

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