Do you know there are only 65 days left to Christmas? One thing is for sure, our retailers won’t be letting us forget. Big W is said to have started displaying Christmas decorations on their shelves more than a month ago. Meanwhile reports from the UK claim Christmas cards, wrapping paper and mince pies have been on sale in some shops since early August. And those tedious recordings of ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ have no doubt started in some places. Their bland, repetitive melodies won’t cease until the doors close on Christmas Eve!

This is not how the Christian church celebrates Christmas. The birth of Jesus first appears on the radar as we begin a period of waiting and expectation on the First Sunday of Advent (2nd December). Then, over the following three Sundays, we are encouraged to prepare ourselves for the actual nativity. It then all happens on the 25th December and our celebration of Jesus’ birth continues through December until the first week of January.

Sunday 6th January marks the official end of Christmas and the beginning of Epiphany which continues into early February. Epiphany literally means “manifestation” or “appearance”. It refers to the revelation of God in the coming of Jesus. During this time we hear the story of the Wise Men from the East plus various other stories about the early part of Jesus’ life and ministry.

So, why, in the wider community, does Christmas start so early?

Is it a case that we just can’t wait to get enough of a good thing? After all, Christmas is a joyous time. Is it because many people yearn to break the monotony of a long, wearisome year? Or is it because our many retailers are simply keen to increase their sales and make some money?

Whatever the reason, don’t get caught up with all the hype. Don’t rush into Christmas. Avoid being consumed by an overwhelming sense of busy-ness. Refuse to be phased by that pesky countdown to the big day.

Rather, put things into perspective. Be patient and don’t be anxious. When Advent arrives in early December, begin to anticipate, wait and prepare yourself for the birth of Jesus. And, when Christmas Day and the weeks of Christmas do arrive, go for it and celebrate!

Rev John Barr