The following is a post from my Celebrate Like a Catholic Series. Merry Christmas!
Sometimes it seems that the holidays are all about the hustle and bustle, the gifts, the gift-wrapping and the never-ending get-togethers. If that is all a person sees in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas then the chaos of it all may seem to be something to survive rather than an opportunity to deepen our relationships and our faith. Thanks be to God, then, that there is a deeper reason for this chaotic season.
The reason behind it all is actually one of peace: the coming of Christ, born in a stable. How can we mark this great mystery of our faith? How can we be in the world but not of it, especially at Christmas? Do we avoid the hustle and bustle, do we not give gifts, do we avoid the seemingly senseless parties? Not at all! While we can participate in those things, we are called to remember the deeper reason for it all.
After all, do you think Mary and Joseph had a relaxing and peaceful time leading up to the birth of Christ? I should think not. One watching of the movie The Nativity Story would tell you otherwise. Mary and Joseph had a long, and at times, even treacherous journey to Bethlehem. The road was long and tiring. Mary’s labor came on and there was a rush to find shelter. We can relate to Mary and Joseph’s rush at the coming of Jesus. There is some comfort in knowing that the parents of Jesus were also hustling and bustling to not only get to Bethlehem in time for the census, but also in time for Mary to give birth. When we find ourselves struggling with the rush of the holidays we can say a quick prayer to Mary and Joseph and ask them to share with us their trust in the Lord that all will work out as it should.
But what about the actual day of Christmas? Every family is different, and each will likely want time with you. Your family will likely want to spend time with you. If you are married, your spouse’s family will probably also want to spend time with you. If you have children of your own, you may want to start your own traditions. So how do you find time for it all? Start with what is most important. For me the single most important thing about Christmas day is going to Mass. There is also something special for me about playing my violin at Mass. My first year home after college I was so excited to play at Mass that I signed up to play at Midnight Mass (which lasted until after 2:30am), 7am Mass, and 9am Mass before joining my immediate family for our usual festivities. That year was overkill for me, and I was tired! Since then I’ve learned that the central focus of the day is Christ, who humbled Himself to be born in a stable and was laid in a feeding trough in a town whose name means “House of Bread”. From the very beginning He came to feed our hunger. That is what the day is about.
So how do we celebrate that as Catholics? We start by being fed by Him, by receiving Him not only in the Eucharist, but by inviting Him to dwell in our hearts. The other activities of the day may vary, but so long as we seek to bring the joy of Mary at the birth of Jesus to the world, then I believe we are celebrating Christmas as Catholics. Our invitation is somewhat like the Three Wise Men’s – to seek the one who had been foretold for so long, to encounter Him, be humbled by Him, and then to take that joy where ever our travels take us.