It has always seemed to me that we can never truly celebrate Christmas on the day itself, but do so in the weeks and months that follow. After the tree is down, the wrappings are memories, and the feasting is over, we then begin to give meaning to that greatest of days.

Even the Gospel makes this important point. We are told that after hearing the host of angels, and seeing the Christ child for themselves, "the shepherds went back" (Luke 2:20) to the everyday tasks of life. But the experience of Christ changed their lives forever, and they went back "singing praises to God for all they had heard and see; it had been just as the angel had told them." What made Christmas important for the shepherds, therefore, was not that they had experienced it, but rather that it had changed them and transformed their lives in the weeks and months that followed.

In this way, brothers and sisters, we are reminded that Christmas is nothing if it is only a one day occasion for the exchange of gifts and hearty eating. For Christmas to be truly celebrated, it must also transform the days and weeks of our lives that follow. If they too are filled with all that we have come to regard as the spirit of Christmas, then we will truly celebrate the birth of Christ.

Let then our homes be filled with the warmth, and the light, and the laughter and the love of Christmas, and may all of these gifts not be quickly forgotten the next day, but may they fill our lives in the weeks and months that are yet to come.