‘Tis the Season to Be Holy
Will your Christmas be different from last year’s Covid-restricted feast? I do hope mine will be. Usually, Christmas Eve is the one time of the year when our whole family gets together for dinner. Last year that wasn’t possible. This Christmas, with everybody vaccinated, we may, pray God, come together again.
But last year, Advent and Christmas were also the quiet sort of affair many of us have always longed for, even if that was forced by a cruel pandemic. The restrictions provided greater opportunities for the quiet reflections and peace we usually struggle to make time for. Will we be able to find the oasis for stillness again this year?
In this issue, we pause to reflect on the Nativity of the Lord in different ways.
I suspect one item might cause some debate: the anonymously-written letter from “Jesus” (page 26). It certainly provoked lively discussion among the Southern Cross team. In the letter, “Jesus” writes that instead of complaining about the secularisation of Christmas, we should first take action in our life. Replace our own Santa Claus decorations with Nativity scenes, “Jesus” suggests.
But I don’t think the letter proposes that we should be happy if the symbols of our faith are absent in public spaces. Rather, it calls us to interior conversion first, before we worry about external symbols. And that’s something which Scripture repeatedly and consistently calls us to. Our first concern should be about our own shortcomings, not those of others. Or, in Jesus’ words: “First, take the log out of your own eye; then you can see how to take the speck out of your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
That speaks to our internal disposition as well as to the external expressions of our faith. If we don’t have the faith truly in our hearts (feeding the poor, forgiving our enemies, and so on) and in our homes (a well-thumbed bible, sacramentals, The Southern Cross on the coffee table), then how can we demand with integrity the display of Christian symbols in public spaces?
Of course, we should also beware of the elimination of Christianity from the public sphere. But before we do so, we must always introspect whether we are really living what we are agitating for.
Every Christmas, there’s one thing that invariably drives many Catholics to unholy anger: the use of “X-mas” for Christmas. I don’t use it myself because I know, from long experience, that if
I do, somebody somewhere will angrily accuse me of blasphemy or worse. But there is nothing inherently disrespectful about writing “X-mas”.
It is an ancient rendering for the word Christmas used by the early Christians themselves.
The letter X in our alphabet indicates the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter of Christ’s name in Greek (Χριστός). So the letter X does, in fact, represent the name of Christ. It might annoy us when “X-mas” is used as a lazy shortcut, but its roots are solidly Christian and, indeed, sacred.
In that spirit, I do hope you’ll enjoy this December edition of The Southern Cross. Please tell your friends about your monthly Catholic magazine!
From all of us: May your Advent season be holy, your Christmas (or X-Mas!) be joyful, and your 2022 be filled with blessings, peace and good health.