Celebrating Christmas in its entirety

The season for some denominations continues until the Feast of the Baptism

The presents have been unwrapped, the Christmas Day meal is already a memory, and the Boxing Day Junkanoo parade in its return to Bay Street in a pandemic era is in the history books – so, for most people, as far as they’re concerned, Christmas is over. Their focus has now turned to preparing for the New Year and the New Year’s Day Junkanoo parade. But what should not be forgotten is that by no means is it the end of the Christmas season in the church – yet. The Christmas season, for some denominations, continues until the Feast of the Baptism – the feast day commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

Originally, the baptism of Christ was celebrated on Epiphany, which commemorates the coming of the magi, the baptism of Christ, and the wedding at Cana. Over time in the West, however, the celebration of the baptism of the Lord came to be commemorated as a distinct feast from Epiphany. It is celebrated in the Catholic Church as well as the Anglican and Lutheran Churches on the first Sunday following The Epiphany of Our Lord on January 6. Some Lutheran churches celebrate it on the Sunday before Lent.

Christmastide 2022 began in the evening of Saturday, December 24 and ends the evening of Thursday, January 5, 2023.

Over the years, many religious leaders have encouraged people to embrace Christmas for more than just the one day, and to ensure that they make Jesus Christ a part of their routine for the entirety of the season; and to ensure that they don’t just celebrate the one day.

Bahamas Harvest Church Senior Pastor Mario Moxey, who, in a previous sermon spoke on the topic, “What if Christ was about Christmas?”, in a previous interview with The Nassau Guardian, has encouraged people to make Christmas about Christ.

Officially, Christmas begins on Christmas Eve in the church, but the answer to its end can get a tad bit complicated and takes a little unraveling. The Feast of the Epiphany (which is transferred to the Sunday between January 2 and January 8), the church celebrates the biblical event where the magi, also called the Three Wise Men or Three Kings, traveled from the east to pay homage to the newborn king, Jesus Christ. Many believe that this is the date when the Christmas season officially ends, being the traditional 12 days of Christmas.

As the Christmas season continues, it’s Moxey’s wish that families make the season Christ-centered – and, as he said it, put Christ into Christmas.

“Family devotion is simply getting everyone together,” he previously said. “Get together and catch up on everything. We talk about everything else, but we don’t really talk about Christ. The whole idea is to get them to introduce a new element.”

The takeaway, he said, is that people end up putting Christ at the very center of a day and season that is used to celebrate his birth.

Christmas Day is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed on December 25, among billions of people worldwide. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it is preceded by the season of Advent and initiates the season of Christmastide, which, historically in the western world, lasts 12 days.

“Usually, when we celebrate someone’s birthday – we talk about them. We give them gifts. We reverence them on their birthday. We give them tribute on their birthday. The idea [of the family devotional] is that we walk away knowing that we’re giving Jesus Christ tribute on his birthday,” said Moxey.

Moxey said people are to always give God thanks in everything they do.

“There is this tendency that we have to commercialize and even neglect the important things in life. We need to remember and keep that centered about us, the fact that we are a godly people, and the fact that we as a people need each other, need to connect with each other, connect with families and so forth. I usually encourage our congregation to connect with families during this time, and that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes people go for an entire year and don’t speak to one another, but Christmas and the Christmas season is a time for peace, love and joy. And it’s just a time of communicating that joy and that peace.”

In the Catholic Church, the Christmas season, which began with the Christmas Eve Vigil Masses, celebrating the Nativity of the Lord, ends on Sunday, January 8. Epiphany has historically been celebrated on January 6, but is celebrating annually on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8.

In the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated as an integral part of the celebration on January 6, the Great Feast of the Theophany. For those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, January 6 falls on January 19 of the modern Gregorian calendar.

In the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptism of the Lord is observed as a distinct feast in the Roman rite, although it was originally one of three gospel events marked by the feast of the Epiphany. Long after the visit of the Magi had in the West overshadowed the other elements commemorated in the Epiphany, Pope Pius XII instituted in 1955 a separate liturgical commemoration of the Baptism.

The Tridentine Calendar had no feast of the Baptism of the Lord for almost four centuries. Then the feast was instituted, under the denomination, “Commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord”, for celebration on January 13 as a major double, using for the Office and the Mass those previously said on the Octave of the Epiphany, which Pius XII abolished; however, if the Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord occurred on Sunday, the Office and Mass were to be those of the Feast of the Holy Family without any commemoration.

In his revision of the calendar, five years later, Pope John XXIII kept on January 13 the “Commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ”, with the rank of a second-class feast.

A mere 14 years after the institution of the feast, Pope Paul VI set its date as the first Sunday after January 6 (as early as January 7 or as late as January 13) or, if in a particular country, the Epiphany is celebrated on Sunday, January 7 or Sunday, January 8, on Monday, January 8 or Monday, January 9.

Pope John Paul II initiated a custom whereby on this feast, the pope baptizes babies in the Sistine Chapel.

In the Anglican Communion, in the Church of England, Epiphany may be observed on January 6, or on the Sunday between January 2 and 8. If Epiphany is observed on a Sunday on January 6 or before, the Baptism of Christ is observed on the following Sunday. If the Epiphany is observed on January 7 or 8, the Baptism of Christ is observed on the following Monday, on January 8 or 9. In the Church of England, Ordinary Time does not begin until the day after the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

In the Episcopal Church in the United States, Epiphany is always celebrated on January 6, and the Baptism of the Lord is always celebrated on the following Sunday. The Prayer Book allows for the continued use of Christmas prayers and readings on the weekdays following the Epiphany and leading up to the Baptism of our Lord. Further, the Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ are viewed as specially connected, allowing the interpretation that Christmastide does extend through and end with the Feast of our Lord’s Baptism on the Sunday following the Epiphany.

Traditionally, the Methodist Churches partake in a covenant renewal liturgy during watch-night services held on New Year’s Eve.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated in many Methodist parishes on the second Sunday in January, after the Feast of the Epiphany has already occurred.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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