While in the car a few weeks ago, a Christmas song came on the radio. My oldest son, Alex, made the comment, “Christmas is such a great time of the year. Just hearing the carols on the radio makes me happy.” “It sure does,” I replied, “Christmas is a season full of joy.”

The joy is contagious as we bring colorful decorations and lights to our dark nights. We prepare for celebrations. We ponder what we can give to our loved ones. We cook yummy treats. It is indeed a joyful season. But the day after Christmas, stores clear out all of the seasonal merchandise, we begin the grueling task of taking down decorations and return to plain ‘ol lamps for light. Christmas is over. The two months to follow are often referred to as the darkest and most depressing months of the year.

Fortunately, Christians are not subject to the commercial calendar. For us, the season before Christmas day is a time of making preparations. The prophet Isaiah said, “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.’” (40:3–4, NRSV) The time of preparation is anticipatory of something yet to arrive. The joy of the Christmas season is only the beginning.

When a couple discovers they are having a child, immediately they think of what they need to do to get ready. They purchase clothes for the child to wear, they paint a room, buy a crib, etc. While the nine months before the big day can be a beautiful season, much energy is focused on the time afterthe child arrives. And when the child does finally arrive, mother and father experience a new level of love and joy. That love does not end on that day but continues through the late nights and smelly diapers. Joy is born and continues to grow.

As we sing our Christmas carols and build our excitement for Dec. 25, may it continue to the 26th and 27th and January and February, on through Easter. Isaiah continues his message of preparation with a word of eternity when he says in verse 8, “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.”

May this Christmas season last forever for each of us.

Kyle Hite is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Greenwood. He can be reached at kyle@firstgreenwood.com.