Every year my town publishes an eight-page calendar listing all the dates for trash and recycling pickup. The heavy-duty brochure includes details about what plastics can be recycled, what can’t be, and how cardboard boxes should be broken down and flattened. The document tries to tell residents everything we need to know when it comes to the trash we put on the curb. And on the front page, in big letters, is a note about Christmas trees. Christmas trees need to be placed on the curb and with all decorations, including tinsel, removed. Trees can’t be placed in plastic bags and they’ll be picked up, at random times, through January. And, with much fanfare, we’re informed that trees can be picked starting on December 27, only two days after Christmas.

We spent over a month preparing for Christmas. I spotted artificial Christmas trees in late August and Black Friday sales that started on October 31. Plane tickets and hotel reservations were ordered months in advance as we made plans to travel to visit family and friends. It takes a lot to make it to Christmas morning. And once that morning comes, we’re already off to the next thing. We set reminders to take down our outdoor lights. We take days off so we can stand in line at the stores to return the gifts we didn’t really want. Reservations are made for New Year’s Eve and we can’t wait to see what the New Year brings. It’s amazing how much energy we spend to get to Christmas and how we almost act as if Christmas, once it’s 12 noon on December 25, no longer really matters.

For centuries, the church has embraced Christmas as more than a day; Christmas is a season. For twelve days, through January 5, we’re invited to reflect that the gift of Jesus and the gift of faith change everything. By being in relationship with a Savior who loves us too much to leave us on our own, we can become exactly who God knows we can be. Today’s worship is centered on the twelve days of the season and the song we might know but have no idea what it’s about. The twelve days of Christmas are more than just about lords who leap and maids who milk. The twelve days of Christmas are rooted in a God who will never give up on us. And that’s a gift that we can’t do anything but spend a life growing into.