Needing some quiet time in this busy season, a few days ago I was having breakfast at a café by myself with a book in hand. I could not help overhear a conversation at the table next to mine. One lady was saying to another, “We celebrate Christmas but we don’t particularly profess any religion”. And the other lady asked, “How do you celebrate?” “Oh we have dinner together and then exchange gifts” was the answer. It got me thinking… why celebrate Christmas when Christ who is supposed to be the reason for the season does not mean anything. Then a few days later I received a greeting from a friend who wished me “Happy Holidays” and that got me really thinking: Where is Christ in Christmas? In wanting to be politically on the correct side, shopping malls have taken Christ out of Christmas by replacing the baby Jesus with Santa Claus, reindeer, and bells both in the decor and songs played. Senior politicians don’t want to be at gatherings where songs that make reference to Jesus are sung. So where is Christ in Christmas?
This isn’t the time for me to pass judgment on any person or on the commercial nature of Christmas but it got me thinking about my own attitude to Christmas. This is the season when people buy gifts and send cards, reconnect with friends and family, go on holidays, eat, drink and make merry. But in it all where is Christ and what difference does Christ make at Christmas? For many of us we have gone through different phases of celebrating Christmas – a child expecting toys, a teenager hoping to get the latest gadget and an adult looking forward to the holiday period. We have been celebrating Christmas for years and with so many family traditions that we keep from one generation to the next. Listening to that conversation while at breakfast has made me ask myself, ‘Do I celebrate Christ or do I celebrate all that is attached to the festivities…gifts, food, and holidays?’ I invite you to reflect with me, ‘Where is Christ and what difference does He bring to our lives at Christmas?’
The readings at Christmas will remind us the difference that the birth of Jesus brought to the lives of some people: (a) To Joseph and Mary not only the difficulties of not finding a place to give birth and then having to run away to Egypt but also joy; (b) To the Shepherds out in the fields it brought a renewed hope; (c) To the Wise Men who came from the East, a sense of new expectation since they saw something never seen before; (d) Even to Herod, who felt his power and authority now threatened.
Luke in his Gospel announces the birth of Jesus using the words, “Today a Saviour has been born to us, Christ the Lord!” With these words he tells us that the long period of waiting has come to an end. All the prophecies of the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah have now come to fulfilment. In other words, a new beginning has started and this new beginning brings with it the greatest gift of all – God’s everlasting love for you and me. In that famous verse of John’s gospel we recall, “For God so loved the world that He sent His Son…” (Jn 3:16).
If we are to find Christ in Christmas, then our celebration has to be two-fold: firstly recognising and meeting this Child Jesus who offers Himself at this celebration of the Eucharist; secondly, sharing this love with one another. Perhaps we sometimes forget that the sharing of love with one another finds its foundation in the love we receive from God. So this Christmas, let us remember the reason that we can love one another is because we have been first loved by God. Love takes on many forms as St Paul tells us: patience, kindness, humility, respect, sacrifice, forgiving, encouraging, belief, and everlasting. And this Christmas, if any member of our family or friends who may be in need of any one of these expressions of love, let’s make it happen. Let us put Christ in Christmas where He rightfully belongs. Blessed Christmas everyone!