When I think of December, the first thing that comes to my mind is Advent and Christmas. While that may seem to be the obvious topic to think about, there really are several other possibilities. I could think of the Church’s season of Advent. It does prepare us for Christmas, but its major theme is Christ’s Second Coming in triumph at the end of time. I could think of the Immaculate Conception, the holy day which is the patronal festival of the United States. I could think of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose popularity has spread far beyond the Hispanic community. And then December holds the first day of the season of winter. And because December marks the end of the civil year, I should think of organizing my financial papers for income tax and spend the latter part of the month developing my resolutions for the New Year.
But instead, I think about Christmas. It is one of the greatest feasts of the Christian year, along with Easter and Pentecost. That is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the babe in the manger in Bethlehem, who is the eternal Son of God made man.
The basic truth of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus the Messiah, God Incarnate, is plenty of reason for us all to rejoice and worship. But we have piled such an additional load onto our Christmas observance that worship is often almost lost in the shuffle.
Think about what weight Christmas must bear: we send Christmas cards to people we contact at no other time of the year. We must put up wreaths and Christmas trees and lights. It is the time of year above all others to visit relatives — “home for Christmas” is a sort of national motto. There is a Christmas dinner to plan and cook. And then we have Christmas presents to buy. No wonder the Christ Mass becomes an afterthought!
Presents, at least, are a natural extension of the Christmas theme: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). As God loved us and expressed it by giving his Son, so we, in turn, share the love we have received by giving to others. And it is natural to show the joy we feel at the birth of our Savior with decorations and festivities.
Maybe, though, we can combine our Christmas activities with our stewardship commitments. Treasure, although challenging, is the simplest. Shouldn’t the most expensive Christmas present we give be the one to Jesus whose birthday we are celebrating? Risen and glorified, he needs nothing we have. But his Body, the Church, continues Jesus’ mission here on earth and always needs additional resources.
Time and Talent may be a little more complicated, but can’t we spend a little more of our time in worship and prayer? Drop into the Church for a visit to the Christmas Crib and offer a prayer of thanks for the gift of God’s Son. Maybe you can attend Mass each day of the Christmas Octave. Have your family gather for prayers together in the morning or at dinner, in preparation for Christmas Day and through the Christmas season.
And Talent? There are lots of possibilities: Sing in the choir for the Christmas Masses. Help decorate the Church. Cook or bake for someone who is shut in. Invite someone who will be alone to share Christmas dinner with your family. Offer to work in a soup kitchen if you are alone. The possibilities are endless.
Yes, December means Christmas. But with a little planning, we can make this hectic time one of real blessing both for ourselves and others. Pray for me that I can keep Christmas properly, and I will pray for you. And by the way, have a merry Christmas!
Fr. Vijaya Raju Mareedu, SAC