However, there is one walloping great benefit: We get two (count them, two!) Chrstimases. Who in their right mind would complain about that? Certainly not me and definitely not my kids. They are not Orthodox but they aren't crazy enough to pass up an extra Christmas.
So today was our Christmas service where we celebrated the Nativity. It was really wonderful. But Orthodoxy doesn't just have Christmas. What would be the fun or benefit in that, right? They have a number of special services all the way up to today. For example, yesterday we attended the Royal Hours at 9:30 a.m. which included lots of prayer and Scripture readings. Then at 3 p.m. we had vespers and celebrated the divine liturgy of St. Basil followed by a vigil at 6 p.m. All in all this amounted to about six hours of church! Then, today, we attended the divine liturgy at 9 a.m. (Communion being served both yesterday and today).
But preparation for Christmas (usually called The Nativity in Orthodoxy) didn't even start there. Today and yesterday could be more accurately called the culmination. No, preparation for Christmas started way back on November 28, the Monday right after Thanksgiving. With fasting! Yep, we started preparing for Christmas by fasting. Not total abstinence from food but rather certain kinds of food. Basically everyone becomes temporary vegans! Which for my daughter and me is a boon. I keep telling people that their fast is our feast. Obviously fasting for us wasn't going to be very difficult so we abstained from a couple of other things (mostly successfully) to help us become better at fasting and reap some of the spiritual benefits.
Of course, this means today was the first day with no fasting and the meal following church was mostly uneatable to us. But that was o.k.. The fellowship was wonderful and it was with much joy we responded to, "Christ is born" with the refrain, "Glorify Him!". Which is really what Christmas is all about, right?
But back to the calendar. There is another benefit to being on a different timetable as everyone else. It forces us to remember, in a very practical way, that we aren't of this world. We are pilgrims here and meant to be out of sync with the world around us. Too often we look like the world, act like the world and talk like the world so that they can't really see much difference between us and them. It shouldn't be this way. And having one more way of being out of sync is really helpful. Not only to ourselves either. It benefits the world around us because they can see that things are different and, hopefully, may even wonder why and ask questions. I relish the opportunity to answer the question, "Why are you celebrating Christmas on January 7th?"
Well, it is almost time for Christmas supper. After that, the kids get to open more presents.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!