Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Have We Lost Christmas?

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.  The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."  And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavently host with the angel, praising God and saying:  "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."              (Luke 2: 6-14)

No matter how many times I hear this Gospel reading I am always moved by it and by what it has meant to the world.  A child was born and the world changed.  He came, born in Bethlehem (the city of bread) and is found in a manger - not to show us how poor he was but because the manger was a feeding trough and he came to be our nourishment throughout our faith journeys.  And he was not born in "the inn" because the inn (Holiday or otherwise) is a place for transients and he came to stay with us.

I found an interesting article recently from the Huffington Post written by Father James Martin, S.J., the culture editor for America magazine.  He was lamenting the ever encroaching hold on the holiday by commerical interests who are interested in their bottom line but, in his words: You've seen the endless TV commercials and web ads that wink at Christmas (red and green sweaters, evergreen trees, red and green ornaments, wreaths) without daring to mention "He Who Must Not Be Named."  Christ may be the new Voldemort.

I found an number of things with which I agreed in Father Jim's article but could not enthusiastically support his final suggestions.  He says the war on Christmas is lost.  He believes the commerical enterprises in our society have succeeded in basically burying Christmas and ignoring its religious significance.  He finds that many religious people have difficulty in resisting the commercialism and keeping the day holy.  He is right to a certain extent.

His final suggestions are that we should surrender and realize that we have lost the fight about Christmas, and to go underground in engaging in passive resistance by reading Scripture, not buying as many presents, not sending as many Christmas cards, etc.  These are the suggestions with which I find difficulty.

I do not believe that we have lost Christmas.  I have heard in the past few weeks a number of examples of how ordinary people rise to the occasion and truly live out the spirit of Christmas.  A local school district near where I live recently had a number of its students visiting and bringing presents to a center that treats the most severely disabled children some of whom could not even react to the generosity being afforded them.  There were "letters to Santa" written by adults who are facing very difficult times this Christmas season because of unemployment.  Reported on ABC news, this brought out an outpouring of gift giving from around the country.  Another story told of a young football player (at college level, I believe) who passed on the final game of his season to give his adult stem cells in an effort to save someone's life.  My own daughter had an experience where she had left items in a grocery cart that were meant to become gifts for her co-workers.  She figured that someone finding them might just take them as a "find" but when contacting the store found out that they were turned it.  Something small, you might say, but another example, I believe, of how people do keep the spirit of Christmas through giving just as God gave us his greatest gift on the first Christmas - his only Son.

Christmas must be in our hearts and if it is, it is not lost.  Regardless of the commercialism and the seeming secularization of the holiday, we can all make Christmas come alive.  I still plan to give gifts to my loved ones and I have sent out my Christmas cards because I want to stay connected to the people who have meant something in my life.

May the true spirit of Christmas first set forth in those beautiful words in Luke be with all of you and your loved ones and may that spirit carry forth into another new year.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for putting this out there Deacon Neil.