Dear Friends in Christ:
It is always fascinating to watch and observe the gyrations surrounding Christmas. Each year, there are countless media advertising campaigns, made for TV movies and other offerings that try to influence and convince us of the “real meaning of Christmas”. Almost always, the proposed “real meaning” has nothing to do with the actual real meaning. More often than not, what is proposed as the real meaning of Christmas is some kind of sentimental, feel good, idea that is miles off and light years away from any real connection to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the same time as the relentless avalanche of sentimentality is pulling at our heartstrings and prying at our wallets, there is an eruption of articles in newspapers, magazines and on the internet and programs on TV that seek to de-mythologize Christmas. Each new revelation boldly proclaiming that what we have always known and believed about Christmas is a lie, a myth or a silly superstition. The latest entry into this fray is the assertion by a whole new generation of intelligentsia that all of the previous rational explanations to demythologize Christmas are themselves folklore and myth and thus false! What is one to do? Are we to believe the latest National Geographic production on CCN or do we simply accept that this is really the Season of Audi? What is Christmas really all about or does it even matter?
The simple truth is this, Christmas is not about buying stuff nor is about nice feelings. It is not merely an ancient myth, nor is it a bunch of ancient pagan rites and practices absorbed and appropriated by Christians over the centuries. It is not about the joy of children’s smiling faces or the warmth of a fire in the family hearth. Christmas is something totally distinct and unique that all of these attempts to rationalize, sentimentalize or commercialize fail to grasp. Christmas is not primarily about us, it is about Jesus!
Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, takes on human flesh and is born of a virgin. God enters human history to become one of us and to save us from our rebellion of sin. He who is divine becomes man so that we may no longer be estranged from Him but reconciled through Him. Jesus was born so that He might die and conquer death. He died so that we might live. The baby in the manger came to be the man on the cross. The invisible God became a visible man, the immaterial God took upon himself created matter in the flesh. Jesus, the Word made flesh, spoke words of affirmation and words of condemnation. He spoke words of acceptance and words of challenge. He spoke words of love and He condemned sin. He taught not just what was right and true but he also came to show us where we are wrong. The challenge of Jesus and his gospel is the challenge for each of us to change our lives. It is the challenge for us not to live for ourselves but for Him. It is the challenge to go beyond the simplistic claims for the meaning of this season and instead embrace with our whole mind, heart and soul the one and true reason for this season. Perhaps the clearest representation of what this season is really all about appears in the Gospel of Mark which fascinatingly does not have an account of the birth of Jesus. Instead St. Mark merely states,
“After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mk 1.14)
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately