Santa Claus arrived at the Mall yesterday. Really.
That, and the fact that a house right down the street from my rectory has its Christmas lights up, signals that it is time for the annual secular celebration of Christmas (or as retailers call it, the “holiday season”. Which holiday? Is there another holiday for which we buy gifts and exchange on Dec. 25th that I am unaware of?) It is so interesting to explore the difference between how our economic culture celebrates the “holiday season”, and how Christians celebrate
Christmas. Three points:
1. Secularized culture is all preparation and no celebration. The preparations for gift giving begin earlier and earlier every year. But by the time it comes to give the gifts, for so many people, it is time to move on to something fresher and not so tired. This is because we have been beaten into submission by a barrage of advertizing for over a month, and the effects of advertizing are so intrusive on our lives. We just want people to leave us alone by the 25th. We want to get ready for New Year’s, a much easier holiday for which to prepare.
Christians on the other hand, have a whole season of preparation called Advent, in which we remember the phrophecies of the coming of the Messiah, and anticipate His arrival at the fulness of days. This preparation encourages quiet and vigil at the darkest time of the year, that we might be ready for the arrival of the Infant King. For those who enter into Advent, they receive the Lord with joy on Christmas Day.
2. Secular culture views the holidays as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Our culture uses the fact that we have Christmas traditions as a way to make money, and who can blame them? It’s not a bad thing that businesses make a profit off of Christmas commerce. But when the culture totally forgets why we have all this Christmas cheer and gift giving, well, it leaves all of us feeling a bit stale. Christians see Christmas as an end in itself, in that we give gifts because we have received the greatest gift, God made Man, Jesus Christ. Christians can both receive the spritual blessings and the gift-giving joy in fulness.
3. The secular culture misses the hope of Christmas, only seeing it as a perpetual cultural tradition. We roll out the same tired Christmas routine (sorry, Holiday routine) every year. Yawn. Christians receive a huge shot of hope and renewal each year during the Christmas Season (which extends from Christmas Eve to the Sunday of the Lord’s Baptism, usually the 2nd Sunday of January). So, when we are buried in two feet of snow, and Presque Isle Bay freezes over for the ice fisherman, our hearts are warmed with the promise of New Hope for the New Year. Each Christmas builds on the last one, until that day when we can all gather around the King in Heaven.
You see, we need to present a Catholic Christian Christmas to our neighbors, because we need to save them from Christmas in the Mall. If Santa Claus were here for December 25th, I guarantee you he would be in Mall Chapel, and not in front of the Verizon store selling Droid phones. For the sake of the retailers and the shoppers, let’s have a real Holy Christmas this year, and let Jesus do what He is planning for each of us!