The first day of the year holds mixed emotions for me. It’s the beginning of a new year, but it’s also the day that my family and I traditionally take down the Christmas decorations. That always makes me a little sad.

Doesn’t it seem that all the buildup and hype for Christmas sometimes leaves the actual event a little flat? You work hard to get everyone the right gift and then the presents are ripped open and it’s over.

Well actually it isn’t. And if you celebrate the true meaning, it won’t be flat at all. During the New Year’s Eve service at church -- Asbury United Methodist Church Pastor Jay Henderson reminded us that December 25th isn’t the end of the Christmas celebration, but the beginning. The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Christmastide and Twelvetide, begins on December 25 and ends January 5. This is followed by the festival of Epiphany – also Theophany, or Three Kings’ Day, which celebrates the manifestation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. The four Sundays before Christmas, the buildup, is called Advent, a season of prayer and fasting to thank God for Christ’s first coming, His presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and to prepare for His second coming at the end of time.

On the other end of the spectrum, while driving to the bowling alley one night during the buildup, my son, David and I drove past a house that had a reindeer in the front yard. Not an actual reindeer, but one of those wire/plastic, kind that are popular during Christmas. And that was it. No other animals graced the artificial herd, no lights clung to the house, no decorations laced the trees or shrubs, no inflatable Santa climbing into a hot tub with Rudolf or waving to the crowd while piloting a tractor; just a lonely reindeer, its tiny, white lights casting a soft glow across the lawn.

In keeping with the spirit, my sweet wife, Kathi, schemed up an idea to liven up the season by making our own Christmas cards.

“I’m going to buy Christmas shirts,” she explained, “and we’ll stand in front of the tree and take selfies with my I-phone.”

With good reason, I expressed skepticism for the outcome of such a plan, but finally relented and agreed to go along with it. It won’t be so bad, I thought, imagining Kathi would procure sweaters created in somewhat tacky but tolerable Christmas motifs. However, upon completion of her limited-use clothing expedition, she further dampened my already unenthusiastic expectations by proudly presenting David and me with green, elf t-shirts. All was not lost. The menagerie of photographic selfies that ensued confirmed a suspicion I had been harboring: I-phones, and probably other smart phones as well, collect images and later use them against you. In trying to impose a timer upon the phone, we angered it into producing unimaginable shots in rapid bursts of ten, depicting us in awkward poses that could not have been of our own doing. In one, my head appeared to be spinning like Linda Blair’s exorcism, in another I was hunched over with arms dangling like Cornelius in Planet of the Apes. It was all good. I hadn’t laughed that hard in years.


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This article was written by Bob Avey, author of Twisted Perception, Beneath a Buried House, and Footprints of a Dancer.