The hymns sung, the lessons read (but are the lessons learnt?) and peace from toil for a week or two, enjoy the goose or turkey and the cheerful company and try not to think of those alone.
The season quickly moves away from church-going even for church-goers, into the secular holiday, which is much much needed. Even that though expands to worship. Step out of the house into the street, into the fields, and breathe in creation. At this time it is as if the world is being created anew, and it is rustling, changing, living. That is equally the story of the nativity of Jesus, because it is not about that moment of birth, frozen in a moment, but the beginning of the story that grows continually.
We can say that Christ-tide is not about a day or a giant turkey, and equally it is not about the child in a cradle.
The scene of the moment of the miraculous birth is played out year after year, with a babe laid in a humble beast’s feeding trough for want of a cradle, but the story moves on, as he stretched his limbs and his lungs, as he was nursed and fed and grew, with a more suitable cradle and home. He was carried to the temple in Jerusalem. He may have been walking by the time the magi came from the East, and speaking first, unrecorded words, but timing we do not know as the Gospels skip over the time in order to get to the meat of the Good News in his Ministry and the Commission and his ultimate sacrifice. We do not like to think of this at Christmas, though ministers of the Protestant churches, alert to their duty, do emphasise the wholeness of the message to their congregations.
The cattle-trough and the baby are an image of a moment; the charm and wonder of innocence before the challenges begin. It is easy to understand why there is concentration on this one moment, turning the frozen scene into an idol, but it is unhealthy. Wonder at the Son of God lying in a manger, but it is opposing the Gospel to try to keep him there.