The American culture is very young. We think of things like baseball and the Fourth of July as being ancient traditions, because our country has barely existed for more than 200 years. Our Christmas celebrations and even our American Santa Claus are also rather new compared to European traditions. If the Roman Catholic Church were a human adult, then the SBC would still be in diapers.
Many European cultures, including those of Eastern orthodox faith, celebrate Christmas from December 25 until the January 6 day of Epiphany. The real season continues until February 2, ending in a celebration known as Candlemas which celebrates Jesus’ presentation at the temple. In America, our celebration begins earlier and earlier each year as retailers attempt to get their merchandise moving and improve their bottom line for the quarter. The idea that the birth of Christ is the beginning of the season, rather than the end of it, would be unusual here.
What about the song?
The Christ candle is traditionally lit during either a Christmas Eve service or perhaps on Christmas Day. Christmas just happens to be on Sunday this year. What ever you do this weekend is fine with me as long as you remember that Christ is the gift and God is in the manger.
Today is Christmas Eve, the last day of Advent. Tomorrow is Christmas, the first of the 12 days of Christmas, which culminates in Epiphany. An epiphany is a great discovery or revelation of prolific truth. The January 6th Epiphany celebrates the wise men finding Jesus.
Advent is the season of waiting and preparation. If we’re being technically correct in our worship (and I’m not one that cares as much as some do) we should have been singing Advent hymns up to this point, such as O Come Emanuel. It is now time to sing Joy to the World, proclaiming that the Lord is come.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:10-14 ESV)