FROM MY CORNER OF THE WORLD
Every once in a while, I see someone with a button or bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Now that I’m on Facebook, I hear a lot about the “war on Christmas,” as if there is some concerted effort on the part of our society to ban the holiday or minimize its importance. I suppose I would experience much more of that sort of talk if I could bring myself to watch FOX news or listen to the silly pundits on talk radio.
Here’s the truth of it.
“Jesus is the reason for the season” that renews itself today, here and in churches all over the world. Before today, whether you first saw something resembling a Christmas display a few days before Thanksgiving, or around Halloween, or nearer to Labor Day (which is when I saw Christmas gear for sale for the first time this year), Macy’s is the reason for the season. Or maybe it’s Kohl’s, or Family Dollar, or wherever it is that you happen to shop. From the first time you noticed a display all the way through close of business on December 24, commerce was the reason for the season. Retail establishments everywhere need for us to drop much money into their registers so they can survive another year.
The “war on Christmas” might have something to do with some poor, unfortunate retail clerk saying “Seasons greetings” or “Have a happy holiday” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Or perhaps it has its roots in the legal ploys of some disgruntled people who do not want to spend public money on Christmas displays in town squares. Certainly, there is enough effort to prevent public school students from singing religious songs at their holiday pageants.
I’ve noticed something interesting about people who work in retail. The smart ones repeat whatever you say. If you lead with “Have a nice holiday,” they say it back or say, “Same to you.” If you say, “Have a nice Christmas,” they say much the same back. They try their best not to be offensive because they want you to come back to their store. This is not an exercise in “political correctness,” whatever that means, as much as an attempt to continue to have jobs to report to every day.
And if you want your children to sing religious songs in Christmas pageants, well, there are a great many Catholic schools in our community. In education, as in so much else in this world, you really do get what you pay for. We live in a secular world, and that world must take care of many different kinds of people with a variety of belief systems or no belief at all. The bigger surprise to me is that non-religious schools still gather audiences to watch their children sing about Rudolph or snow. If you want to hear a chorus of school children singing “Silent Night” or “Joy to the World” on the stage of their auditorium, you may well have to pay tuition.
Please note that I said that the season that Jesus is the reason for renews itself today. The season itself began when Jesus was born of Mary in a stable in the town of Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago. Ever since then, God has been Incarnate in the world, first in the person of Jesus and after his resurrection in the Eucharist reserved in tabernacles everywhere. That Christians are still intolerant of others or willing to do violence in the name of God proves only that we are sinners and have not yet fully absorbed what it means that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to be our Savior.”
In terms of the liturgy of the Church, the Christmas season begins today. Our festive observances continue rather intensely through the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord two Sundays from now, but the season itself does not conclude until February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple.
As the secular world packs away its Christmas displays and the sales end, we can keep the spirit of the liturgical season alive by attending and participating in the Eucharist here in church and by making sure we continue to be open to the generosity of spirit all Christians are called to as we respond to God’s gift of Jesus with our gift of love and compassion for others. The true season of the Incarnation never ends when we embody the Incarnate Lord in our own actions.
There is no war on Christmas that matters to us as long as we make Christ real to others. We do that by loving everyone with the same love that Christ showed to us by becoming one of us. Be Christ for others.
Fr. Phil Cyscon