Finding Faith: More time to focus on the meaning of Christmas

"Would it be all that bad to tap the breaks a bit and let the celebration of Christ’s birth linger? I see few drawbacks to a slowed pace for a couple of weeks ..."

Devlyn Brooks 2021
Devlyn Brooks
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Mention the “12 Days of Christmas'' and many older people’s first thought would be of the hilarious song recorded by Bob and Doug McKenzie in the early 1980s.

“Good day, and welcome to Day 12!”

Unfortunately, many others wouldn’t have a clue what you’re even talking about. And I think our Christmas season is the poorer for it.

Historically, the “12 Days of Christmas” was a Christian season that began with the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25 and extended until Jan. 5, encompassing a number of festivals, both religious and secular. In other words, Christmas wasn’t a one-day showy celebration of commercialism, but rather, it was an extended period of time that celebrated much more than the cute story of a baby king being born in a stable.

It’s unfortunate that in our postmodern drive to speed things up and move onto the next distraction, that we’ve lost a celebration that included almost two weeks of gathering together, the giving of gifts to others, the making of holiday symbols such as wreaths, and the focus on the holy light shone into the world through God, in flesh and blood, coming to live among his people.


But money doesn’t make itself after all, and who wants to wait for an entire 12 days for those amazing after-Christmas shopping deals!

In an age of instant everything, we have all but demolished the concept of liminality, which is really what the “12 Days of Christmas” was. Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines liminality as, “of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition.” In the Christian liturgical calendar, that is exactly what the “12 Days of Christmas” gave us, an intermediate state between Christ’s birth celebration and Epiphany just about two weeks later.

But in our supercharged world, there no longer is a space for liminality, a time to be in between. Our distraction-obsessed brains crave the next thing, something new, another party on New Year’s, the start of the new year and the rush of another 12 months unfolding in front us. Now, let’s get to filling up that calendar with more things!

Would it be all that bad to tap the breaks a bit and let the celebration of Christ’s birth linger? I see few drawbacks to a slowed pace for a couple of weeks to allow us to focus on our families, our neighbors, our neighborhoods and, yes, our mental, physical and spiritual health.

Americans today live large in every sense of the word, by overspending, overeating, overmedicating, and even overscheduling. The “12 Days of Christmas” could be the antidote, giving us each a chance to relax, unwind and focus on the corporate body of believers for an extended time. Talk about bringing us back to the example Jesus set with his focus on relationships in his ministries!

Besides, I’m quite certain that the latest, got-to-have-it techno gadget -- discounted at 50 percent! -- would still be available 12 days later on a website somewhere.

"Church worship now competes with everything from professional sports to kids activities to household chores. ... we can either have a frank conversation about what church can be, or we can continue to watch the pews empty in cherished houses of worship across the country."

Related Topics: FAITH
Opinion by Devlyn Brooks
Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at for comments and story ideas.
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