I can imagine a response to this column as I am writing it. Someone reading the title is saying… this new Bishop is off his rocker! Lord help us. Of course Christmas is the same as the Nativity of the Lord, the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. Didn’t you go to seminary?
Well, yes…OK….they seem to refer to the same event….in a way. But let’s see how they are very different holy days.
In the good ole’ US of A, when does the Christmas season begin? For my generation, the Christmas season began just after you washed the dishes of Thanksgiving. The stores had all the Christmas lights blinking and all the shelves were packed for all of us shoppers. The Salvation Army had their kettles out early on, in their great service to the poor. Many looked to purchase their Christmas tree at the beginning of December, just in time for the Bowl Games and the get-togethers.
And….when does the Christmas season end? In my neighborhoods, growing up as a boy in North Augusta, South Carolina and as a teen in Columbus, Georgia, the Christmas season ended on Christmas Day, the 25th of December, or thereabouts. Folks began to take down the tree, decorations were packed away, diets started (again) and….most importantly…stores began their after Christmas specials on the 26th.
OK…that’s the secular holiday of Christmas. But what about the Holy Days of the Nativity of the Lord? For Roman Catholics, the season begins with the Masses of the Nativity…the Vigils on the 24th, and all the Masses on the 25th. And, we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord for an Octave… eight days!
It begins at holy Mass. What does that say about the difference between the secular holiday season of Christmas and the religious season of the Nativity of the Lord?
As we pray throughout the season of Advent and look toward the joyful season of Christmas--His Nativity--let us share the joy of all our neighbors as the nation celebrates “the holidays”…but let us remember why the “holidays” exist for us in this nation:
The Angel said to the shepherds working in the fields just outside Bethlehem: Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord (Luke 2.9-11).
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
(For The Greater Glory of God)