The wrapping paper hadn't even been thrown away yet before I started getting emails from retailers announcing their amazing post-Christmas sales. "Christmas is over!" they say, and that means bargains for anyone who hasn't had their fill of shopping for the last few weeks.
It may be December 30, and there may be posts all over Facebook about people undecking their halls, but for me, Christmas isn't over. I like to enjoy the festivity of the Christmas season until after New Year's Day.
But as they say in the books and movies, the feeling of Christmas can last all year. And, ironically, the reasons go way beyond any sappy movie line.
Books and movies try to sell you the idea that Christmas "doesn't come from a store" and it's "the season of perpetual hope." They say you can be kind and giving and full of hope and peace beyond Christmas as long as you keep Christmas in your heart all year long.
The problem with keeping Christmas in your heart all year is that it keeps Jesus in the manger. And pretty soon that manger scene is made out of cats or marshmallow snowmen and nobody has any idea why the baby was in the manger in the first place. Or what happened to him after that Silent Night was long past.
People love to quote from Luke chapter two at Christmas, exclaiming the "good news of great joy" and "peace on earth, goodwill to men." That's a nice sentiment to have at Christmas, and it makes a lot of people a little more cheerful, a little more giving, a little more hopeful. But all too often it gets swept away with the paper scraps and pine needles.
Imagine, though, if the story of Christmas swept us away instead. What if we took a closer look at that baby in the manger, and let him and his story into our hearts? What if we could accept that Jesus gave us the manger so that he could give us the cross, and he gave us the cross so he could give us an empty tomb?
That is where the Christmas story leads, if only you would let it sweep you away.