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With the Christmas Day celebrations, the exhange of gifts and the family dinner, Christmas quickly fades. Travels, preparations for New Year’s Eve gatherings and department store post-Christmas sales demand our full attention. Outside lighting displays so extravagant that only days before they could illuminate the entire neighborhood immediately go dark on Dec. 26 — even more so this year, we suspect, with the cost of electricity on the rise.
But it shouldn’t be that way for us. While much of society celebrates Christmas (even the “Holiday Season”) during Advent, for us the season of Christmas will begin with the vespers and midnight Mass of Dec. 24 and will continue until the Baptism of the Lord, which is celebrated this year on Jan. 9.
Christ’s birth is the pivotal moment in history. His mission was not restricted to a people, a culture or a particular time or circumstance. Christ, “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8) is the Lord of History. God, who spoke to humankind in different ways through the prophets, “in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son” (Heb. 1:2).
Yet both the action of God and the human freedom are at play in history. The history of the world is somehow intertwined with the accepting or rejecting of that salvific message of Christ
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us,” the Gospel of John reads. But it also states that “He came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him.”
One of the key moments of the Christmas season is the Epiphany of the Lord. That solemn feast makes present Christ as the King of the Universe being worshipped by the leaders of the nations. But even at that time, one leader, King Herod, had different plans for the new King.
Some societies through the centuries have rejected Christ’s message. Christians have often been persecuted, imprisoned or killed. Others have embraced His message of salvation, understanding that the moral framework provided by the Christian principles of natural law exert a beneficial influence on the laws that support their societies.
At the beginning of the new millennium, we are living in a moment of transition. While Christ may still be at the center of the hearts of many, our society is rapidly moving away from basic Christian principles that have provided society with a solid foundation for centuries.
In this new societal environment, Catholics need to strengthen the Christian elements of our culture. A good example of that effort is the Knights of Columbus campaign to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Those types of public statements are fundamental to sustain a culture that is facing serious attacks from secularists who would like nothing more than to see Christ disappear from the public forum and reduce Christianity to a private form of piety without public impact.
Mangers, Christmas trees, re-enactments of the birth of Jesus, singing of Christmas carols are simple, yet powerful ways of reinforcing this presence of Christ in Christmas.
Of course another way to stress the importance of the season is to keep up Christmas decorations and celebrations until the end of the season. In other words, “keeping Christmas in Christmas.”