It was the day after Christmas. Pastor Smiley, (the nickname of the Rev. Thaddeus A. Praysalot), was standing in the kitchen putting the finishing touches to a mug of his favorite tea. Today was a day of favorite things. The day after Christmas was a welcome day off, to relax and recount the blessings of Christmas thus far.
Pastor Smiley was about to sit down in his favorite chair, with a Christmas present book by one of his favorite authors and sip his tea, all the while listening to a CD of his favorite Christmas carols.
"It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" sang the parson in accompaniment with the choir and the orchestra. The much-loved melody was carried to the front room, the destination of reading and sipping tea. As he walked to the front room he could not help but look out the window, and there across the street was his neighbor, Frank, tossing his Christmas tree on the curb.
Distressed by what he witnessed, Pastor Smiley sank down into his easy chair. As he sipped his tea, the book remained unopened in his lap. The music selection had moved on to "O Little Town of Bethlehem." It gave Pastor Smiley pause to think back over Christmas Eve.
The day started early with the delivery of Christmas baskets of food and toys to needy families in the community. Also, there was occasion for financial assistance. That endeavor was always a special joy for his congregation.
At All Saints Church, Christmas Eve started with the children's pageant. Pastor Smiley chuckled to himself at the thought of Tommy. He insisted that he would not be a shepherd again; this year he wanted to be an angel, albeit an angel whose halo kept slipping.
Then there was Krissy, who made a lovely Mary - even though she punched Joseph for stepping on her shawl. The memory of the children's voices reciting their lines and singing carols brought an inward glow to the elderly pastor.
After the pageant, there was the time of Christmas cheer with family and friends in the fellowship hall. The tastes of fresh eggnog and Grandma Abigail's cookies were treats to be savored.
The 11 p.m. candlelight service was always the high point for Pastor Smiley. He never tired of processing into the sanctuary with the choir singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." And then the prayers and the scripture readings telling the nativity story, while so familiar, were still so moving. Holy communion brought a renewed faith that God, indeed, sent his son into the world, to be the savior of the world. The last part of the service was the candle lighting, there with the lights turned off and singing only by candles, the words and melody of "Silent Night" gave praise to God and brought joy to human hearts.
One of Pastor Smiley's traditions was to walk home after services. This was a time of sublime peace, an awareness of God's Christmas peace. This year it was a cold clear night and one could almost hear the angels sing.
In the midst of his musings, Pastor Smiley's eyes wandered to his grandmother's hand-carved nativity scene setting on the parlor table. His gaze fell on the three wise men and their camels - placed a little distance away from the stable. It was as if they gave the impression that they were still on the journey, they had not yet arrived.
Being a veteran parson, Pastor Smiley's thoughts drifted to sermons and services still to come. In the church year, Christmas lasts for 12 days and ends on the Festival of the Epiphany in January. Already Pastor Smiley began to anticipate his children's sermon for Epiphany, when he would tell the small ones about the visit of Magi, the three wise men from the east who came and brought gifts to Jesus.
The Wise Men represented the nations of the world. The glory of Epiphany (the Greek word for being made manifest) is that Jesus who came into world born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, is revealed as the savior to all the nations.
In his mind, Pastor Smiley could picture all of this and remembered the shadowed message of how the Christmas story would turn out.
The gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh - were in Bible times things that were brought at the time of death, brought for a funeral.
The gospel story of Jesus unfolds from this point; to Jesus' baptism in the river Jordan, his public ministry of preaching, teaching and healing; his time of passion when he was betrayed, arrested and led away to the cross to die; and then rose on the third day.
"Indeed," spoke Pastor Smiley's inner voice, "all of this is wrapped up in Christmas. This is why Jesus came into the world, to be the savior of the world."
By now, Pastor Smiley discovered that his tea had become cold; once again he looked out the window to the tree on the curbside. And once again, the voice of his heart rose up, "No. Christmas is not over. It is much more than a day, it is a season."
The 12 Days of Christmas is the Christmas season for the church. The Christian community continues to sing the carols, read the Bible stories and attend to the prayers of the Christmas season.
May you all continue to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
(The opinions of this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Ministerial Association or the author's church affiliation.)