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Christianizing Christmas

/ 07:48 AM December 17, 2011

Imagine the year 7 a.D. A boy approaches his parents and asks, “Mom, dad…what was the ‘first Christmas’ like?”

You might immediately react that this was very unlikely. Christmas, you would correctly observe, was only celebrated some centuries later after Jesus’ death when the Church institutionalized such an important moment in the history of God’s redemptive plan. To be precise, the word ‘Christmas’ would have never occurred to any child’s mind in the year 7 a.D.

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Christmas 2011, I wonder how many seven-year-olds know what Christmas really is. It is sad that many seem to have already forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. More emphasis is laid on the material preparations for the Yuletide celebrations. There is so much rush here and there to deck every corner with the season’s flavor, but many forget to deck their hearts with conversion and love.

There are some who even want to deny Christ’s central role in such a historical moment of God’s graceful intervention in man’s existential misfortune. They refuse to even refer to it as ‘christmas’ by calling it a season of lights and spirits. The lesser the presence of Christ is felt, the more ‘christmas’ it will be. They are today’s Scrooges and Grinches incapable of being converted.

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We need to make Christ the center of Christmas. It would help if we play with the word Christmas by using mas which means more Spanish. Then we would live a season which has to be “more Christ” and invites us to be “more like Christ.” This is, therefore, the task of every son and daughter of God: to re-Christianize Christmas.

Here are some reminders or a sort of Christmas 101?

• Jesus, Mary and Joseph – they are the main characters of the season. Jesus is the Son of God become man; Mary is Jesus’ mother and therefore also the Mother of God, and Joseph is Jesus’ foster father here on earth. They are the icons of love and virtue for the family and society.

• Celebration – Christmas is about celebrating by thanking God for the gift of giving Jesus to us for our salvation. And the summit of celebrating is found in worship and sacrifice to show our gratitude to God. The highlights of these are attending the Holy Mass on the 25th of December, a holy day of obligation for Catholics.

• Gift-giving – yes, Christmas is about giving gifts but it begins by giving the gift of ourselves to God and our neighbor. This comes in the form of praying, offering small sacrifices and serving others.

• Forgiving – it’s very much about forgiving. This is true only if we begin with asking God to forgive our faults first. A helpful and sincere touch to this is by making a good confession. Once forgiven, we would be truer in our desires to forgive those who may have offended us, and help them to also experience God’s forgiveness by inviting them to prayer and penitent acts.

• Partying and resting – Christmas can be never synonymous to ‘vacation time’. One can never take a vacation from loving God and others. Thus, when seeking to rest or spend some leisure time with others, let’s be moderate and think about others who may not be able to do the same. Get high with the spirit of Christmas and not the ‘spirits’ of the celebration.

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• Resolutions – it’s already good to have some resolution, but it isn’t good enough. Make sure it’s practical and can be lived on a daily basis.

* * *

As a child-at-heart, I would like to, however, continue with the hypothetical case above in the year 7 a.D. We can continue imagining how the father would have lowered his hammer and chisel and smile at his son. The mother would have stopped sewing and look at the boy with wonder. Then husband and wife would look at one another and then contemplate their sib with so much love. Then Mary and Joseph would have joyfully replied, “It is always Christmas for us by being with you, Jesus!”

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