The tree has been stripped of ornaments and all is put away. Twinkling lights are nowhere to be found. The home seems rather barren without the trimmings. The Christmas season is over and it is back to the ho-hum of ordinary time, or is it?
The Christmas season officially ends with two great celebrations: Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus. The Epiphany celebrates the visit of the magi to the infant Jesus. Guided by the light of a star, these wise men, who were outside of the covenant of Israel, sought the child and brought Him gifts signifying His Kingship, His Divinity, and His sacrifice. While we cannot celebrate Christmas every day, at least with the same intensity as the day itself, the season of Christmas reminds us that the light of Christ shines and lights our way towards Him. It reminds us that we are all called to follow Jesus, inviting those who have lost their way or wandered far from Him to return again and seek His light. And when we have a true encounter with the Lord, we are changed and we move forward, not returning the same way we came, but seeking the alternate route that keeps the presence of Jesus with us daily.
It may seem a bit rushed to celebrate the magi’s visit to an infant one day and on the next day celebrate Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist when He was an adult, but we do need to remember that the liturgical year includes all of Jesus’ 33 years on earth. For many years I thought the Christmas season ended with the Epiphany, but a homily from one priest a number of years ago, urging the congregation to keep the Christmas decorations up until the Baptism of Jesus, corrected my understanding. Upon reflection, this is the perfect ending to the season and a great way to move into ordinary time. Jesus’ baptism reminds us of our own baptism, that we were made new by the waters, washed clean of our sins. It’s what marks us a Christians: those who follow the way of Jesus Christ. This remembrance of not only Jesus’ baptism but also our own gives us the path forward. It may seem like we’re returning to ordinary time, but in reality, we are continuing our journey of faith. We have come down from the mountain of celebrating Christmas and are now walking the path towards our next encounter with God.
Most of our lives are spent in ordinary circumstances, and that’s okay. It helps make seasons like Christmas and Easter so special; they are like punctuation marks in the stories of our lives. They give us hope and help us keep our relationship with God strong. Ordinary time does not mean God isn’t with us, but rather it gives us the opportunity to seek Him, praise Him, and thank Him for all the ways He’s present to us on a daily basis. The celebratory seasons give us perspective of how to live a journey of faith in ordinary time; we take these shining moments as we move forward in and with the light of Christ.