These are strange days: this year at midnight Mass our local bishop started his homily by wishing the congregation a Merry Christmas . . . then paused to assure us that he did not intend it "as a political statement". Strange, and yet not so strange. For a long time we have had to fight against Christmas becoming a mere Season of Vague Good Cheer, or a Commercial Extravaganza; now we also have to contend with the fact that the War On Christmas has become one of many fronts in secularism's ongoing kulturkampf.
|The Adoration of the Shepherds,|
by Phillippe de Chaimpage
While I, for one, don't intend to lose my freedom to say "Merry Christmas" to whomever I choose, the good bishop was quite correct to remind us that if we allow our Christmas greetings to become just another weapon in the Culture Wars, we have already lost. In Christmas we reenact an event that far transcends any of the political or cultural concerns that occupy us in this world. As the Apostle John tells us:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)
The Eternal Life that was with the Father was made manifest to us - no wonder God sent Angels to proclaim it! Our celebration of Christmas is an opportunity for us to experience Our Lord’s Holiness in a special way. One way to make that holiness real to us is to observe Christmas in the way Christ’s Church has set out for us: beginning with the Feast of the Nativity yesterday (after a season of preparation, Advent, over the previous four weeks), and with a holy season that is just beginning.
As in previous years, my posts over the next few weeks will be focused on the Days of Christmas. Today is the the 2nd Day of Christmas, a solemnity in the Octave of Christmas, and also the Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (for whom I have written a separate post: “2nd Day of Christmas: St. Stephen & Good King Wenceslas”).
This is a Holy Season, that is a season set aside for God; I invite you to celebrate with the clip below, a lovely rendition of one of my favorite Christmas songs, “O Holy Night”, as performed by Hayley Westenra: