The presents have been exchanged and opened, some gifts have already been returned to where they were purchased; and the Christmas dinner leftovers have been feasted upon as an afternoon snack. Christmas is over. The thought now turns to the laborious task of taking down the Christmas tree and putting the lights and decorations away for another year. As the secular world bids farewell to another Christmas, retailers are counting their coffers, economists are checking the pulse of the post-Christmas economy; Christians enter into the Christmas season.
While the rest of the world seems to frantically celebrate Christmas from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day, Christians calmly observe Advent. As society seems to take a break and breathe a collective sigh of relief that Christmas is finally over, Christians inaugurate the Christmas season.
It was once suggested Christians should quit observing Advent. The point was, in reality, no one in our world today is preparing or even contemplating the second coming of Christ during the Advent season.
For most Christians, the season of Advent is really the Christmas season which for them has become an incredibly hectic time of shopping, preparing food, holiday concerts, attending parties, maybe by Zoom this year, and most of all stressing out.
Half-jokingly it was recommended Christians should abandon the practice of Advent and line up with the secular and commercial world. As the saying goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join them!” Noting the difficulty of centering people on Jesus’ final coming, it was chidingly proposed that Christians rename the season following Christmas Day as “Re-vent!” This notion concedes that Christians are in a more reflective and introspective mood after Christmas then before Christmas.
The word Christmas comes from the Anglo-Saxon words Cristes Maesse, meaning Christ’s Mass. The scripture passage from the gospel of Luke captures the essence of the Christmas season.
In those days Caesar Agustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole world. This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to register, each to his own town. And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to David’s town of Bethlehem—because he was of the house and lineage of David—to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. While they were there the days of her confinement were completed. She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged.
There were shepherds in the locality, living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them, as the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very much afraid. The angel said to them: “You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim the good news to you—tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people. This day in David’s city a savior has been born to you, the Messiah and Lord. Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes.” Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:1-14).
Within church communities that follow a liturgical calendar, the color for the Christmas season is white. Churches are decorated in a festive mood reflective and respectful of the Christmas liturgical season. Banners bearing white and at times gold along with Christmas trees, poinsettias, white lights and candles are incorporated into the environment. Some churches integrate the Advent wreath into the Christmas setting by draping white material on it and replacing the Advent candles with white candles.
The Christmas season is that period where Christian communities give its people the opportunity to reflect on the amazing mystery that God became a human being. In Jesus Christ we find both God and man.
Christmas recalls God’s unconditionally love for his people in that he gave Jesus, his son, the Word made flesh to be our redeemer. Jesus is a true gift from God our father in heaven. The birth of Christ is a declaration from God that he very much adores his people.
Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).
The incarnation goes to the heart of our authenticity as a Christian: God entered humanity in the person of Jesus. Illuminating an essential fact concerning how God desired to interact with the human race, the incarnation exemplifies how Jesus humbled himself and utilized personal touch, stories, commonplace items, and other people to proclaim God’s love, joy, peace, and existence.
Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross! Because of this God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every other name. So that at Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord! (Philippians 2:5-11)
Our God became one of us, and the accounts from sacred scripture teach humanity how to live and love.
If Christmas is going to be meaningful in the lives of Christians, then we are challenged not to just focus on the birth of Christ, but on the incarnation. Jesus’ birth took place 2000 years ago, but the process of Jesus becoming flesh in our world has the possibility to take place in our every day life by the way we live our lives and integrate Jesus’ standard of sacredness into our life.
Just as Mary physically gave birth to Jesus, so too are we, as members of the Body of Christ, called to give spiritual birth to Jesus to all we encounter in our daily lives. When we permit others to experience Jesus through us, and “to taste and see how good the Lord is” (Psalm 34:9) true conversion occurs, and the process of the Word becoming flesh continues in another person.