Weeks of preparation to decorate the house, do all the baking and
cooking, select the perfect gits, wrap them, put them under the tree,
send out Christmas greetings, organize and attend parties and dinners,
make travel arrangements; and after just a few brief hours, Christmas is
all over for the year.
I don't know about you, but December 26 has traditionally been a bit of a depressive day for me. After all the preparation, it seems like a bit of a let-down.
It is also perhaps depressing because it is the day I traditionally begin the Christmas "undecorating" process. Yet as I put away the ornaments, the garlands, the candles and the lights of Christmas for yet another year, I also realize that Christmas is truly not over on December 26. Christ's indescribable gift that we celebrate at Christmas is available 365 days a year, and 366 during leap year! I don't know about you, but I think I will try to use it every one of those 365/6 days this year!
Another thought comes to my mind as I take down the Christmas tree and store it in its box: Seeing as it is difficult for us, in our society, to remember the true meaning of Christmas even on the very next day, perhaps it is a good thing that we celebrate Christmas each year! True, Jesus wasn't born on Christmas Day; yet without Christmas, would we even remember His indescribable gift at all?
Of course, December 26 is a national holiday in Canada as well as in many other countries under the British Crown. It is known as "Boxing Day".
Being an immigrant to Canada, when December 26 rolled around that very first year as a Canadian resident, I had no idea what "Boxing Day" meant. After all, isn't boxing a sport where two people stand in a ring and tried to beat each other down? What does that have to do with the day after Christmas? When I asked someone about it, I was told that Boxing Day was a shopping holiday when stores had sales on everything that they didn't sell before Christmas. When I asked how the name "Boxing Day" came to be, I was told that it's because people "box" each other for the greatest bargains!
And so has been my experience in the 27 years I have lived in Canada. In more recent years, it isn't unusual for people to be standing outside of major stores at 6:00 in the morning on Boxing Day to ensure they are able to obtain the best bargains, and as cyber sales become more popular, these often begin on Christmas Day itself. As a result, besides the commercialism that has come into the weeks (and months?) leading up to Christmas, we have people on Christmas Day itself sitting at their computers, waiting for the sales to "open" so that they can purchase their desired objects for that coveted 20% off.
I have since learned that this is not traditionally what "Boxing Day" was all about. The holiday dates back, in fact, to the 19th century, where there was a tradition for employers to prepare a "Christmas box" of food and gifts to give to each of their employees and servants. Thus the term, "Boxing" day. History also records random reports of these Christmas boxes being given out by some employers as early as the 17th century, and that the tradition of giving gifts and money to the poor on December 26 dates back a least into the Middle Ages, if not earlier.
As I read this, I have to ask myself: How did such a benevolent day get turned into something where shoppers would have to "box" with each other over after-Christmas bargains? What has happened in our society?
Yet, if you think about it, with the world turning the celebration of Jesus' birth into an occasion for retailers to make more money than at any other time of the year, why wouldn't a day set apart for taking care of the poor be turned into something similar?
At my house, we work hard to keep Christ a part of our Christmas, and I was delighted this year to hear from my now-adult son that he no longer looks forward to the gifts he will get for Christmas each year; rather, he looks forward to the celebration of Jesus birth. When I heard those words, tears came to my eyes and I thanked God for helping our family, at least in a small way, to put Christ back into our Christmas. But what about Boxing Day? How could I put the historical benevolence of this day back into December 26?
Please don't get me wrong, I love the after-Christmas sales as much as anyone; but it all makes me think: Is this part of the reason why Christ has been taking out of Christmas?
Yes, Christmas and Boxing Day have been turned into paganized, commercialized times of the year; yet can they not also be used as powerful tools where we can be proclaiming Jesus' indescribable gift to a world who has long ago forgotten the true meaning of Christmas and Boxing Day? I don't know about you, but I'd like to try to do something benevolent this next Boxing Day! I know that I'm just one person, but if everyone reading this devotional would try to do so as well, perhaps we could make a kingdom difference in a lost and hurting world!
Remember, the world's wisest man told us thousands of years ago: "Withhold not good from them to who it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it" (Proverbs 3:27); and "He covets greedily all the day long: but the righteous gives and spares not." (Proverbs 21:26)
Will you join me in "boxing" away the enemy of our souls by showing some Jesus-love on December 26 next year? For in so doing, we will truly be celebrating "Boxing Day"!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.