Christmas Greetings Are Right on Time
A blessed Christmas, everybody!
I realize it’s New Year’s Eve/Eve, and some might think me five days tardy in this heartfelt greeting, but hear me out. I’m not late at all!
Holy Mother Church starts her celebration of the birth of our Savior on Christmas Eve, and keeps at it until the Epiphany, which is the Sunday after the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1). The feast of the Epiphany —when the magi adored Jesus, the newborn Savior —used to be January 6, giving us the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
The tree stays up, presents can still be exchanged, carols are still bellowed out, the crib set remains in place, and we can still express Christmas good wishes and make our visits … and we should.
The Church is “counter-cultural” here, since secular society begins to celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving—as we commence Advent—and sadly concludes the festivities on December 26.
One of the saddest sights is to see Christmas trees already in the trash bin the day after the birthday of Jesus!
Not for us Catholics! We love stretching out our celebration! In some countries, the crib and tree even stay up until 40 days after Christmas, February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. (Candlemas Day, not Groundhog Day!)
However, Christmas festivities do end sooner or later, don’t they? That’s why we’re forever asking the question, “How can we make the joy, light, and love of Christmas last all year?”
I’ve got two ideas.
One would be to concentrate on the Eucharist. You might recall that I wrote about this in my column at the beginning of Advent. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a name that means, “house of bread.” He was born in a manger, which is a “feed box” for the stable animals. Right from the start, Jesus was telling us He was the “living bread,” and came to be “food” for our souls.
We see that promise kept in the Holy Eucharist. When you think about it, every Mass is Bethlehem revisited, where Jesus becomes our living bread, and the altar a manger where we find food for our spirit.
Christ, the Son of God, takes flesh and blood again at every Mass. The Incarnation goes on! Christmas continues.
The Son of God was born at Bethlehem so He could be reborn within us! That happens every time we worthily receive Him in Holy Communion.
God became man so we men and women could become divine! That happens every time we receive Him at Mass, as we share His divine life!
As we pray before Him in the tabernacle, or adore Him in the exposed Eucharist, we behold Christmas again: He is Emmanuel, “God with us,” really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.
Just as most people ignored Him at Bethlehem, considering it silly that God would be present in a newborn baby in a cave, so do many dismiss the Eucharist: how could Christ be truly present in that bread and wine, the most common of elements?
And we reply, “O come, let us adore Him!”
Christmas happens daily in the mystery of the Eucharist.
And a second way to prolong Christmas? Charity!
Our food pantries, soup kitchens, and clothing depots report that, in the days right before and after Christmas, they’re brimming over with supplies. Msgr. Kevin Sullivan tells me people are generous in sending gifts to Catholic Charities every December. Thanks! We sure need it!
But then, as the trees come down and the carols halt, the pantries are strapped, soup kitchens adding more water to the stew, clothes depots down to a few pairs of gloves, and money for rent and medicine begin to get scarce.
Christmas sparks love, sharing, and giving. You want to keep Christmas going all year? Keep on loving, sharing, and giving.
So, keep on wishing everybody a Merry Christmas until the Epiphany! Sing those carols, let the tree and decorations shine these ancient “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Keep Christmas going all year through the Eucharist and charity!
And a blessed New Year, too!