A very merry and blessed Christmas to one and all!
What a marvelous, joyous, and wonderful season begins today on this feast of the Nativity of the Lord. How fortunate we are if we know anything of the meaning and power of this holy day.
The name Christmas–assuming it is used at all and not displaced by the vague and generic “holidays”–has largely been stripped of that meaning and power. What our society commonly refers to as “Christmas” has become a season which now begins even before Halloween and mostly involves spending money and decorating things. Many people in our society will be giving one last Christmas hurrah tomorrow with bargain-hunting in the stores; many others will be eagerly taking down the decorations, having begun to grow tired of them after a couple of months. At best, Christmas is a sentimental time, a holiday for children and family and feasting.
But today is the Nativity of the Lord. Think on that name for a moment: the Nativity of the Lord!
Today is when God was born into human history, human nature, human experience. He who created us and the entire universe from nothing, He who exists beyond all time and space in what we call Eternity, He who is revered by all the choirs of holy angels–it is His nativity on earth that we celebrate! He did not come down in all His great glory, attended by legions of the Heavenly Host. He did not appear as a mighty super-man. If He had, we certainly would not refer to this day as His nativity. No, He was born as creatures are born: as an infant. Small, helpless, thoroughly dependent on others for survival.
Never had such a thing ever happened or even been dreamed of before. Nor shall such a thing ever happen again in time and space. It was a singular event, the Nativity of the Lord. That alone should earn our respect and our amazement. But like a drop of water impacting a still body of water, His Nativity changed everything–changes everything–and forever will change everything! The mingling of the material and the divine, of history and eternity, of the finite and the infinite could not fail to change everything. The birth of God in the world gave new birth to everything. It elevated humanity and all creation to a previously unimagined dignity, while revealing in the almighty God a profound and previously unimagined humility.
Modern man may imagine that after more than two millennia, he is no longer affected by nor subject to that event. He rationalizes away the holy season of Christmas as nothing more than a modern-day Saturnalia or Yuletide. And so it has become! While that is not entirely a bad thing, that isn’t the depth or breadth or truth of it. While many modern men will be content to leave it at that and rush off toward the next big festival, the Christian can never be content with such a thing.
Instead, let us allow ourselves to dive deeply into the tremendous wonder of this holy season and be carried, transported, and transformed by it. Let us appreciate and give thanks for the incredible thing our Lord did for us in His Nativity. And let us not do so only today, but for the entire Christmas season: the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Epiphany, and up until the Baptism of the Lord–to my knowledge, this is what Catholics observe as the Christmas season. While the rest of the world gets back to business as usual, let us persevere in the joy and wonder of Christ’s birth.