The shopping is done and the packages are wrapped and under the tree. The feast is waiting to be cooked. The relatives will soon be here to join in the celebration. These last few days before Christmas are filled with the anticipation of our hopes for a happy day spent with family and friends. This is a good thing. But it’s not why Christmas is an extraordinary day.
Christmas is the day that is the great ending and the great beginning. It was the end of a world without hope and the first day of a world infused with heaven. Scientists refer to something called the “singularity.” It describes situations which are so utterly unique that there really is no precedent or good and simple way of describing them. You often hear it describing the moment the universe began as well as that future time when the artificial intelligence of our computers will develop self-awareness or consciousness. The robot rising, when what we’ve created becomes sentient and probably turns against us. It’s interesting and a bit scary, but it’s nothing compared to Christmas.
That day was the Great Singularity. From it, we have divided time itself into “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini.” The Creator became a human being. This makes a self-aware robot look silly and tame. There is nothing silly or tame about the power and meaning of Christmas Day. It’s no contest. In fact, the immensity of Christmas is such that it’s too much for us weak little humans to bear. So over the centuries we’ve toned it down. If we really lived the truth of Christmas, if we truly embraced it—it would overwhelm us. We’d fall to our knees in worship. Like the shepherds did on that first Christmas.
But that’s not for us. Living in that Christmas reality would make our lives too-centered on God and His plan for our salvation. It would require us to change our priorities. It would mean we’d have to accept the love of God. It would mean that we’d be made aware of our sins. By the Light of His coming, we’d turn from sin and embrace the Gospel. We’d see the needs of others and we’d give our lives in service of the poor, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned and the forgotten. We’d stand up for the oppressed. We’d feed the hungry. We would love others as Christ first loved us.
But the Light born on Christmas asks too much of us, and so we try to keep it as dim as possible. It hurts too much to let that Light shine through us. We remove all mention of God from our public discourse. We separate faith from our jobs and our schools. We teach our children to value tolerance over truth and to never offend anyone by saying “Jesus Christ is Lord and King.” We legalize and fund the killing of innocent unborn children. We create a culture whose values are based on current public opinion rather than on eternal and unchanging Truth. We try to keep God as small and marginalized as possible. A small god in a far-off heaven makes it easier for us to live as we want to live, without interference. We prefer “Elf on a Shelf” to the Babe in the manger. We like “Jingle Bell Rock” way more than “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” Candy canes to crucifixes.
And so, as you gather to celebrate Christmas, the strands of twinkling lights (“The people who walk in darkness will see a great Light…”Isaiah 9:2) on your tree (“The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had Him killed by hanging Him on a tree”Acts 5:30), try to forget what Christmas (Christ’s Mass) really means. Don’t go to Church to give thanks and worship. Don’t read the Nativity story to your children. Don’t pray with your family or share your feast with a lonely neighbor. Don’t let the Truth of the Incarnation change your heart or open your eyes.
Christmas is just another day, after all. And the smaller, the better.
“For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became Man.”
—–from the Nicene Creed