Let the Christmas Season Begin
In our secularised society, Christmas has long ceased to be mainly the feast of the Nativity of our Lord — if ever the main focus was on the birth of the Prince of Peace. Certainly modern society has adopted a multifarious approach to the event.
At its core, Christmas is, of course, the feast on which Christians celebrate the birth of our Saviour. But that meaning is in competition with the rampant commercialisation and secularisation of Christmas.
Christ himself, who gives the celebration its name, has been relegated to a sideshow by the ubiquitous figure of Santa Claus, the official spokesman for seasonal commerce. One can understand that: To people who have no belief in God incarnate, the implications of that birth in Bethlehem is meaningless.
The dominant understanding of Christmas has little to do with that momentous birth more than 2000 years ago.Instead of experiencing the grace and peace of Advent, we have mostly heard those strident bells, jingling all the way.
While society may still pay lip service to Christ’s birth as the “reason for the season”, generally it is not really the birth of God that is being observed. For many, the Nativity is secondary to the culture of shopping, consumption and the artificial nostalgia in dreaming of a white Christmas.
Instead of experiencing the grace and peace of Advent, we have mostly heard those strident bells, jingling all the way.
Practising Christians will, of course, duly remember and celebrate the birth of our Lord. For many, this will be the single important dimension of the feast.
But most Christians, even those of devout practice, will also have been caught up in the more secular patterns of the weeks leading up to Christmas. And that is okay. Indeed, some of these secular patterns incorporate Christian values.
Christmas often is one of the rare occasions when families do come together. It is the one time of the year when most people do strive to exercise goodwill and beneficence, these essential Christian qualities which should really be practised all year round.Christmas is a time when even non-believers engage with Christ, even if in a token way.
Indeed, there is something encouraging about the universality of Christmas. Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 noted this: “Even those who do not profess to be believers, in fact, can perceive in this annual Christian celebration something extraordinary and transcendent, something intimate that speaks to the heart. It is the feast that sings of the gift of life.”
Christmas is a time when even non-believers engage with Christ, even if in a token way.
Christmas is peace after the stressful season of Advent which is dominated by end-of-year parties, planning and buying gifts, excessive consumption, maxing out the credit card, going on holiday. At that time it is easy to lose sight of God and difficult to treat Advent as a penitential season.And even if have failed to observe Advent well as a penitential season, we still have plenty of time to reconnect with Christmas as a faith-filled time.
As Christians, we are causing no affront by engaging in the secularised celebration of Christmas, provided that we remain within the limits of suitable moderation. We are, after all, in this world.
And even if have failed to observe Advent well as a penitential season, we still have plenty of time to reconnect with Christmas as a faith-filled time.
While the secular world closes the annual chapter of Christmas on Boxing Day — when the sales signs go up in the malls and marketers turn their attention to back-to-school specials — for Christians the season of Christmas is only beginning.
The time to sing the popular carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” starts when all the presents are unwrapped. For Catholics, the Christmas season is only beginning on Christmas Day, and continues to the day before the feast of the Epiphany on January 6.
And with the stress of preparing for the family festival out of the way, we can try to find the time and peace to reflect on God’s great gift to us in the Incarnation, a gift incomparably better than any technical gadget we might receive for Christmas—the gift of his love made concrete.
Let the Christmas season begin!