One of my favorite words is Christmastime. Not only because of the warm feeling it evokes when I think about it–but because of the way it looks written. I love it.

At some point, I was surprised to learn that it’s all one word. Surprised, and strangely delighted. I think the word is enchanted.

I’m sure most people think of the term as referring to the whole season–from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day.

In our home, however, we use it more specifically–to refer to the Twelve Days of Christmas from the twenty-fifth through January fifth. For us, this distinguishes the celebration of Christmastime from the waiting of Advent (which starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas). Advent means coming (referring to the coming of our Lord as a baby 2,000 years ago), and it’s designed to be a countdown to Christmas–building longing and anticipation.

Each of the twelve days of Christmastime we have a special surprise. This may be a gift; donuts for breakfast; or your own root beer out of a glass bottle at dinnertime. Or it may be an experience, like going ice-skating or to the movies.

It took a couple of years to establish, but now it’s here to stay. And, since Christmastime lasts for twelve days instead of one, it’s depressurized the twenty-fifth, and intensified the longing of Advent.

Everyday I hear (especially from my youngest children), “I can’t wait for Christmas!” Sometimes we get in the car and have no idea where we’re going–and then it turns out to be the movie theatre!”

“Yeah! Or going to see Christmas lights!”

The focal point of all of this is our Lord Jesus. During Advent we read an Advent devotional everynight as a family, sing Christmas songs, and pray. Our church lights a candle each of the four Sundays, culminating with the Christ candle on Christmas Eve. The Nativity sets in our home have an empty manger until Christmas Day. This is not religious veneer on a secular holiday–it’s deliberate longing fulfilled in Christ as an annual rhythm that illustrates the fulfillment of our deepest need by the Most Generous Gift.

All of that–and so much more–in an enchanted word.