December 25, 2018
For many Americans, this time of year is only the “holiday” season, the “sparkle” season or the winter solstice. For many, “Christmas” begins after Halloween and ends as soon as the presents are opened and dinner is finished. We seem to be surrounded by “holiday” trees and fewer and fewer Nativity scenes. The canned Christmas music in stores is seldom religious. That’s because they are interested only in selling us things. We must make an effort to find the real meaning of Christmas.
For Catholics, the (religious) Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve and extends all the way to the Baptism of the Lord in January. By that time, the stores already have Valentines’ Day merchandise out and “season’s greetings” are long gone. How can we try to reclaim this season for ourselves, as it was intended to be?
It is not always possible to keep the Christmas tree up through the second week of January, but every Catholic family should strive to have some kind of nativity scene in their home. There is so much wisdom to be found by reflecting on the circumstances of Christ’s birth, for it is here we find what we are truly searching for in life.
Christ was born into poverty. In these days of seeming abundance, many are overwhelmed by the cares of life, grief in losses or that feeling of emptiness despite having our material needs met. Reflecting on these moments, the humble circumstances of Christ’s birth can take on new meaning for us. Christ will especially be found among those who are in great need. Ironically, the nativity welcomes all who approach, precisely because Jesus chose to be born in humility so we could approach him in the areas of our own poverty.
The Holy Family had to flee to Egypt. This meant Joseph was out of a job. He had to provide for his family’s needs by accepting the charity of others and looking for work once they arrived in the Jewish communities of Egypt. Many of us, too, will be far away from home this Christmas, wherever home may be. Actually, all of us are refugees in the sense that our true home is in heaven. Christ, therefore, teaches us not to become too settled in one place. Unsettling times and moving on are also part of God’s plan for us.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph didn’t have a lot of stuff. How could they, when they had to travel to Bethlehem and then to Egypt? They didn’t travel in an SUV! Why not make a sweep of the house, eliminating useless clutter and things not used in a while, and give the whole lot of it to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society instead of donating only the most unsellable things? We can reclaim the real meaning of Christmas if we really want to.