The day after Christmas. It can be depressing for some people. A letdown. Like a hot air balloon sagging to the ground after a glorious flight. Or maybe what’s depressing is waiting in an impossibly long customer service line to return the 23 gifts that didn’t fit, that didn’t feel right, that didn’t fill. Because no thing ever does.
But as I reflect on the day after the first Christmas, and the days after that, and attempt to glean some sort of lesson applicable to us for all of our days after Christmas, it strikes me how Jesus’ birth wasn’t the climax of His life. There was so much more. It got so much better. Well, if you don’t count the circumcision and Joseph hiding Him in Egypt until Herod died, and that mock trial and crucifixion thing at the end.
Oh, but that wasn’t the end. That was really the beginning. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
And I don’t necessarily mean life got better for Him. I mean His life got better for us.
Jesus was born. Merry Christmas! He was worshiped and adored by the humble shepherds who had been majestically informed of his birth by a host of angels. Angels! Not a bad development for a scandalously conceived baby born amongst animals and sleeping on itchy hay.
Eight days later he was circumcised according to Jewish law. Then after their days of purification were completed as described in Leviticus 12, his parents presented Him at the temple. There Simeon and Anna acknowledged Him as the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2).
Sometime before Jesus turned two, an angel instructed Joseph to whisk Him away to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous edict to kill all baby boys age two and under in and around Bethlehem (Matthew 2).
The next 10 or so years of Jesus’ life we can only imagine because Scripture gives just a glimpse: He “continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40) and “He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good” (Isaiah 7:15).
Those of us who have parented young children find it difficult to imagine that the child Jesus did nothing worthy of jotting down for us — some mischievous escapade that would make us feel better about our own kids. But then we have to remember that Jesus never sinned. Never. Sinned. Think of all the opportunities the little tyke passed up! That in itself is enough to confirm that He was more than human. Much more.
So much more that at the age of 12, when other Jewish boys His age were absorbed in
Minecraft and bathing in Axe whatever Jewish boys did back then, Jesus was drawn to the temple where He astounded the teachers with His understanding of Scripture (Luke 2:47).
So much more that, after the start of His public ministry, He healed all who came to Him (Matthew 4:24; 8:16; 15:30). So much more that He knew the thoughts and intentions of every heart (Matthew 9:4, Luke 5:22; 11:17). So much more that He was the very embodiment of wisdom and discernment, humility and confidence, compassion and courage.
The days after that first Christmas? They were filled with joy and wonder (Luke 2). The years leading up to the crucifixion? They were filled with teaching and healing and encouragement and discipling by the King.
But then the King died. Certified dead by Roman soldiers (John 19:33). Death would be considered a rough spot in most circles, especially death by crucifixion, the most brutal of all execution methods. And Jesus suffered. He endured excruciating pain, both physical and spiritual. I don’t think it’s possible for our human minds to conceive the depth of His despair when He cried out from the cross, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
His life didn’t appear to be getting better. But ours was.
Because for the King of Kings, the great I AM, the Creator of life itself, the cross was not the end. The tomb was not His final resting place. Man’s schemes did not determine His destiny. He trampled death under His feet and walked right out of that stone tomb. Death had no sting, the grave had no victory.
So you see, after Christmas is the best time of all because after Christmas is when we see the rest of God’s story of redemption unfolding. Jesus lived a perfect life. No wait, that’s not quite right. Jesus lived a difficult life perfectly through all the ups and downs, false accusations, hatred, jealousy, and betrayal. Even when dying, He lived perfectly. His life wasn’t perfect but He was. For us.
Yes, there are some lessons we can learn from the days after the first Christmas. There are some lessons we can apply to all of our days after Christmas. We can remember that Christmas doesn’t end at 11:59 pm on December 25. After the tree is put away, the lights are taken down, the wrapping paper is thrown away, and the gifts are tossed aside, we can still treasure the tree upon which Jesus hung, the light He shines through us, and the robe of righteousness in which He wraps us. And we can treasure Heaven’s greatest gift, the Son of God, every day, not just toss Him aside until next year.
He who was born to show us what righteousness looks like, and crucified to show us what love looks like, and resurrected to show us what victory looks like, deserves more than one day of celebration.
Yes, we can celebrate the days after Christmas just as much as the day itself. It is in those days – the rest of the story – that our salvation is completed. It is in all of the story of Jesus that we find redemption, perfect love, and life. It is because of the entire story that victory in this life is ours.
And it is because of the events of all of the days after Christmas that the tomb is not your final resting place. Man’s schemes do not determine your destiny. Someday you will trample death under your feet and walk right out of a grave. Because He did.
Happy days after Christmas. Live the entire beautiful story. Every day.
Janice Powell 2013
Scripture taken from NASB.