It’s Christmas Eve, and here in Kentucky it will be a white Christmas for many, including myself. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ and the Incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, I want to write to you, our readers, about both the season and the Church.
First, I would like to ask you all to please pray for those this Christmas who will be suffering in some way. For some, it will be their first Christmas without a loved one. For others, it is a season that reminds them of those who are no longer with them. Many people have had their travel plans altered by the winter storm. For some, being around their family this time of year is not enjoyable at all, for whatever reason, and they may be more stressed than joyous. Some will go without something that most of us take for granted this Christmas, whether it be food, shelter, gifts, or even warmth. Pray for all these people, that the love and consolation of Jesus Christ might touch them this Christmas, and that they find the joy and the peace that can only come through the risen Saviour.
Remember also, for yourself, why we celebrate this holiday. It is often easy to forget the profound nature of Christmas, especially in our time. I don’t need to tell you that Christmas has been secularized or that the celebration of Christmas has been watered down and refocused towards vague ideas of “giving” and lights and gifts and snow. These things are nice, of course, but Christmas really is not about the season or the festivities or even the gift giving. It isn’t even about family, although family is certainly a large part of how we celebrate Christmas. No, at its heart, the meaning of Christmas is more than any of that. It can be found only in a lonely manger on a wondrous night some 2,000 years ago, when the only begotten Son of God was born of a Virgin into a world which desperately needed to see His face.
Whatever your circumstances this Christmas, however you will be celebrating it, and whatever you may feel because of this season, keep this in mind: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Find your joy in this and not any other worldly thing.
I quote John 3:16 here because it highlights how Christmas is not only about the factual birth of Jesus, nor is it just about the Christmas story we read in Luke. It is, rather, the plan of salvation which God had set in place from the beginning of the world finally beginning its climax. It is the beginning of the Good News, that the Messiah has been sent, that God is with us. This is an event which had been prophesied to come about hundreds of years before it did. Liturgically, Advent and Christmas actually come at the beginning of the year. While Christmas may end the secular calendar year, it begins the year for the Church, and this is very fitting, since the original Christmas Day marked the beginning of the life of Christ, who would then die for our sins and rise again on the third day so that we might have eternal life. It also marks the beginning, as I said, of the Gospel. Now, after His Ascension, Jesus reigns in Heaven, which is why we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King on the last day of the liturgical year, as a reminder that He rules now and forever, and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. This is what we now await. We await Christ’s coming and the Final Judgement. In this waiting, we live as holily as we are able, so that, by the grace of God, we might enter into Heaven. All this adds to why we celebrate Christmas. Meditate on this. Hold it in your heart and let it inspire you to worship and praise the Lord our God in the coming days.
With that, I want to end with the story of the Birth of Jesus from Luke Chapter 2, in the KJV, followed by a prayer:
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
O blessed Spirit, cleanse with thy purifying fire our hearts and bodies; renew us day by day by thy power, that the fruits of the Incarnation of our Lord may be seen in our lives; fill thy whole Church and all the world with thy light, joy, and peace of his Nativity, that his Second Coming in glory may be hastened, the elect gathered in, and the just perfected in his everlasting kingdom. Amen.
— St. Gregory’s Prayer Book, A Primer of Catholic Devotions for the English Patrimony
All of us here at The New Utopian wish you a Merry Christmas!