So how is your "12 Days of Christmas" celebration going this year? (Jan. 4 is actually the 11th day of Christmas, the one with "11 pipers piping.")

Seems like an odd question in our culture, doesn't it? By now, most of us can barely remember what gifts we gave or received this Christmas. We've celebrated and survived New Year's Eve and are struggling to keep whatever resolutions we might have made a reality. We are back in our weekly routines and we are moving forward into this new year.

Our culture runs right over the long-established traditions of our holiday celebrations. We have traded the focus of our holidays for a season of retail exercises geared to stimulate our economy. We count down shopping days with the precision of a NASA rocket launch. The Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas displays have been out since before Labor Day.

It seems like as soon as the clock strikes midnight on Halloween, the Christmas music starts playing everywhere.

And then when the sun rises on the morning of Dec. 26, Christmas is over.

Now, that may sound a little cynical, but there is also a whole lot of truth to it all. The actual season of Christmas is 12 days long. So the song "12 Days of Christmas" does have a purpose in the lives of Christians.

The celebration of the birth of the Christ child is more than one evening of the year. Our collective experience of the Holy Days (holidays) seems to get trampled by the cultural "Christmas rush" of preparing for the day of Christmas and losing sight that it really is more than that - 12 days - actually.

There are still Christmas carols to sing. There is still this amazing story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, shepherds out in their fields encountering the angel and the heavenly hosts, wise men who journeyed from afar and the king's decree to slaughter the innocents, forcing Mary and Joseph to take the Christ child and flee to Egypt, to be told and retold.

We read the Christmas Gospel from Luke of the angel's announcement to the shepherds: "I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people, to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord."

My hope is that you have not yet packed up Christmas and put it away for another year. And I would encourage you to keep one decoration - maybe a nativity scene - and keep it out on display year round as a reminder of this good news and great joy.

"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.