Several years ago, when I was bishop of Charleston, S.C., I took a walk in that city’s beautiful downtown. It was the day after Christmas, and the aura of the Christmas Masses I had celebrated the day before lingered with me still.

Some of the houses in Charleston have second-story balconies that extend over the sidewalks below. As I was making my way on one of those sidewalks, a Christmas tree was tossed off a balcony in front of me. If I’d been walking fast, it would have hit me.

The Christmas season was apparently over for that city resident — or so it appeared to be. One might give that person the benefit of the doubt and argue that a trip to some other destination for the holidays may have been in the making.

Nevertheless, the tree should not have been thrown out on the day after Christmas, so carelessly as to be a hazard to a meandering bishop below.

And I did think it was a rather odd sight to see.

Epiphany
CNS/Crosiers photo

Christmas is the glorious celebration of one of the greatest events of all time: the birth of the Son of God into this world, he who was victorious over all the forces of evil.

Yet, in the din of the secular celebrations, both “Christ” and the “Mass” have been lost to many. One way that we can recapture the force of good that Christ brought into this world is to celebrate his birth during the entire season.

In the Church’s calendar, great feasts are always celebrated for several days; for example, through a traditional “octave” or eight days of special prayers, and even beyond. Our celebration of the Incarnation extends even beyond that to other feasts — to the Epiphany of the Lord, then to the Baptism of the Lord, and in the past, to the feast of the Presentation on Feb. 2.

The following devotion is offered so that individuals, families and even parishes can deepen their relationship with the Lord by celebrating his coming among us. The devotion is centered around a Christ Candle, calling to mind Jesus, the Light of the World. We listen to God’s Word and respond in prayer, in an act of kindness, and finally, in the lighting of the candle itself, as a symbol of hope that brings light into the darkness of the world in which we live.

May lighting this candle and praying these prayers lead us into an ever deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, who told his followers to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).

Bishop Baker is bishop of Birmingham, Ala. Michael Dubruiel was the author of “How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist” (OSV, $9.95) Amy Welborn is the author of OSV’s “Prove It!” series and “Mary and the Christian Life” (Word Among Us Press, $11.95). Adapted from “Christmas Joy: From Christ’s Birth to his Baptism” (OSV)

Dec. 25

Christmas Day

Reading: Lk 2:1-7

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Resolve to offer some gift of clothing, food, or money to a homeless shelter, so that Christ — in the guise of the homeless — finds a welcome home.

Dec. 26

Feast of St. Stephen

Reading: Acts 7:55-60

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Think of ways that you can support those who are persecuted for their faith in Christ. Is there a concrete way you can show your solidarity with those believers? Resolve to do so.

Dec. 27

St. John

Reading: 1 Jn 2:15-17

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Discuss with one another how our relationship with God is the most important aspect of our lives. See this as a great act of love extended to each other, because God alone can save us.

Dec. 28

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Reading: Mt 2:13-14,16-18

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Talk about what you as a family can do to help babies and families in need in your community.

Dec. 29

St. Thomas Becket

Reading: 1 Jn 2:7 -11

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Forgive each member of your household, in the name of Christ, for anything that they have done to wrong you. Write a letter of forgiveness to anyone there might be whom you have not been able to forgive. See this as an act of sharing the light of Christ where there is only darkness.

Dec. 30

Feast of the Holy Family

Reading: Col 3:12-17

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Do something nice for someone in your family today. Seek ways to build each other up, while avoiding ways of tearing each other down.

Dec. 31

St. Sylvester I

Reading: 1 Jn 2:18 -21

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for all of your deceased family members and friends who have died in the past year.

Jan. 1

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Reading: Gal 4:4-7

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Pray the Rosary as a family that the New Year may be one where each member of your family will grow in their relationship with God.

Jan. 2

Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

Reading: Jn 1:24-28

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Teach someone about Jesus today.

Jan. 3

Solemnity of the Epiphany

Reading: Eph 3:1-3a,5-6

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Share your faith with someone who does not know Christ. Be the light that they observe in the East that opens the desire for them to come and worship him as their savior.

Jan. 3

Most Holy Name of Jesus

Reading: 1 Jn 3:16-18

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Learn about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. What works of mercy can your family share with others?

Jan. 4

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Reading: Jn 1:35-39

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton changed her life to follow Jesus. Talk as a family about what changes you could make so you could answer Jesus’ call in greater freedom.

Jan. 5

St. John Neumann

Reading: 1 Jn 4:15-18

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Pray in the mornings as a family for courage to love as Jesus did during the day.

Jan. 6

Solemnity of the Epiphany

Reading: Eph 3:1-3a,5-6

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Share your faith with someone who does not know Christ. Be the light that they observe in the East that opens the desire for them to come and worship him as their savior.

Jan. 7

St. Raymond of Penyafort

Reading: Lk 4:16-21

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Talk about how your family can spend more time with God’s Word in the Scripture over the coming year.

Jan. 8

Christmas weekday

Reading: Lk 5:12-13

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Share with each other some ways that you are hurting. Pray for each other.

Jan. 9

Christmas weekday

Reading: 1 Jn 5:18-20

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Talk to each other about temptations. What is each person in your family’s greatest temptation? How can you help each other be strong?

Jan. 13

Baptism of the Lord

Reading: Mk 1:9-11

Lighting of the Christ Candle of Hope

Act of Kindness: Jesus enters our world in mercy and acceptance. Think of people you know who are hurting and how you can share Jesus’ mercy with them.