My parents live on a lovely lot where most traffic approaches their home from the back, so many years ago my dad pulled out his tools and built a beautiful white nativity scene to put in the corner of their backyard. While the angel and sheep stand watch by the manger throughout the Advent season, one side yard features Joseph leading Mary on a donkey, and the other contains the three Magi on their travels. Every Sunday afternoon, dad heads out into the yard to move each group closer to the stable, with Mary and Joseph finally taking their place in the crèche with baby Jesus on Christmas Eve and the Magi continuing their journey through the yard for several more days until they arrive to worship the newborn King.
This very visible sign has been a powerful reminder to our family of the journey each of our hearts begins to make four Sundays before Christmas during what is known as the Advent season. For us, that journey continues during the “12 Days of Christmas” — the 12 days between Christ’s Incarnation into the world and the time that we celebrate the visit of the Magi.
Contrary to popular culture, which seems to focus all its energies on the weeks leading up to December 25, the 12 Days of Christmas celebration recognizes that Christmas Day is only the start of a beautiful season that begins with the birth of the Savior and ends with the arrival of the three wise men from the East on the feast of Epiphany on January 6.
This Celebration allows for unique introspection that does not always accompany the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas. It gives us time to focus on celebrating just how momentous an occasion Christmas is in human history. It is the day that the God of the universe descended from his Almighty throne to become one of us, to save us, because He loves us. He knew that by coming into the world as a meek and helpless child, He would experience all the emotions and temptations and pain that we experience, plus the agonizing pain of death on the cross. And still, He came. What could be more worthy of 12 days of celebration?
This year, we encourage you to consider how you can celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas in your own home. Perhaps, like the wise men who brought Christ not only honor from their hearts, but tangible gifts, we can contemplate three gifts we can give Christ in this new year—perhaps something in our professional, familial, and spiritual lives. Let us be like the Magi, who journey toward Him in celebration and anticipation.
Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait, writing for Christianity Today, said it beautifully:
Epiphany sends us into the world to live out the Incarnation, to witness to the light of Christ in the darkness. Following Jesus, we have been baptized into his death and resurrection. Whether we are called to martyrdom, or to prophetic witness, or simply to faithful living in the joys and sorrows of our daily lives, we live all of our days in the knowledge of our dignity, redeemed through Christ and united to God. We are part of the strange society of people whose world has been turned upside down, and we go out to witness to this topsy-turvy truth: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us: and we beheld his glory … and of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:14, 16).
Check out Raleigh mom Tara B.’s suggestions for four ways to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas with your family.