DON'T LET THE "GRINCH" OF COMMERCIAL CHRISTMAS STEAL YOUR SPIRITUAL CHRISTMAS
The Christmas Cycle of the Church’s Year of Grace for Anno Domini 2017 (Anno Domini, A.D. = “In the Year of the Lord”) begins today with the preparatory season of Advent. This year, with Christmas falling on a Sunday, we are able to enjoy four full weeks of Advent.
As we well know, the tone set by the Christmas Shopping Season—the “Commercial Christmas”—and the cramming of social events into the “holidays” can easily overwhelm the observance of Christmas as a spiritually beautiful time, which is meant to leave us with an enhanced sense of peace and joy in our lives.
Catholic liturgy and the traditional customs which have grown up around it offer us ready-made and effective means to prevent the “Grinch” of Commercial Christmas from stealing away the blessings of the Spiritual Christmas.
First there is the sensitivity to the unfolding of the Christmas Mystery. There is the preparatory season of the Four Sundays of Advent. The liturgies of Advent are meant to ready us for openness to the graces of Christ’s coming to earth. The prayer of the Church for the Adventus Domini (the “Coming of the Lord”) intensifies from December 17th until Christmas Eve December 24th.
Then there is the proper celebration of the Christmas Feast according to the Church’s tradition. While other people may be tossing out their Christmas trees and ripping down their Christmas decorations on December 26th, we Catholics are only just beginning to keep Christmas.
We have the Twelve Days of Christmas which culminate in the second great Feast of the Christmas Cycle: the Feast of the Epiphany, properly observed on January 6th. The arrival of the Three Magi Kings at the Crib of the Christ Child in Bethlehem symbolizes the drawing of all the nations of the earth to recognize their Savior. On the Octave Day of Epiphany (January 13th) we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist, and on the Sunday after, the Miracle at Cana, when Christ turned the water into wine at the behest of His Mother Mary. These are three great moments in the Epiphany (or Manifestation) of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world. They are the high-point of the Christmas celebration.
Even after Epiphanytide is done and we are waiting for the Lenten fast to begin, we still have one final satellite feast of Christmas to celebrate on February 2nd, Candlemas Day, the 40th day after Christmas, when the Christ Child is presented in the Temple in Jerusalem and is hailed as “The Light of revelation to the gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
So, the proper way to celebrate Christmas is to follow Church’s timetable and to push back on the Commercial Christmas. Live Advent as Advent as much as you can, in your family home and in your personal space. Then celebrate Christmas over the extended weeks when it’s really Christmas. We do this here at our parish by having our holiday Open House on the Sunday after January 6th and by leaving our Christmas decorations up through February 2nd. The abrupt end to the Commercial Christmas actually leaves us free to experience the spiritual Christmas at our leisure, since the world-at-large has “moved on” to the next thing.
Christmas should be the most joyful time of year for us: the thought of our Savior’s Coming alleviating even the deepest sorrows we may experience in this life. “Good Christian men, rejoice! With heart and soul and voice! Now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this! He has opened Heaven’s door, and man is blessed evermore. Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!”