Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Keeping the Mass in Christmas

Hey, it’s still Christmas! If I’m counting right, I think it’s the 10th day of Christmas. But you wouldn’t know that from looking around. No more houses are lit up. No more Christmas tunes on the radio. People are apologetic for “still” having the tree up, as if it was supposed to be down days ago. Christmas may have stretched out to December 30th, but as soon as New Years Eve rolls around, everyone seems to move on.

During Advent, there are always the signs from the evangelical crowd: “Remember the Reason for the Season!” and “Keep the Christ in Christmas!” Both good messages, but how about remembering the liturgical season at all? And how about keeping the mass in Christmas?

In my view, there are two Christmases: the secular and the sacred. The secular Christmas season starts on Thanksgiving Day and ends on Christmas Day. Activities center on the buying, giving, and opening of gifts. It is about being nice to your fellow man a la The Christmas Carol. In fact, Victorian England is the origin for many celebrating Christmas Day, as the American Puritans had practically eliminated it earlier in our history. Most people seem to celebrate the secular Christmas, but confuse it for the other just because they sing songs about Infant Jesus and put up a nativity scene. They’ll call it sacred, but the churches are empty on Christmas Day. I’m not saying secular Christmas is particularly bad, especially for those who don’t celebrate other holy days, but it’s found lacking compared to sacred Christmas.

The sacred Christmas has a season of preparation called Advent, and then Christmas lasts from Christmas Day to the Feast of the Baptism of Christ (Sunday after Epiphany). Advent focuses on the need of and foretelling of a savior, while Christmas focuses on how God became man in the humblest of means. There are many stories of the Nativity that need the many days to tell: the birth of Christ, the shepherds and the angels, the wise men and the star, the killing of the Innocents, the presentation at the temple. Sacred Christmas isn’t about presents or getting together with family. It’s about rejoicing over the incarnation of our God.

I’m not saying a war on Christmas exists, because frankly, I don’t think people even know about a Christmas that extends past dinner on December 25th. But as everyone else is boxing up decorations, I'm just getting started! I feel as if I'm in some bizarre time warp where my calendar doesn't line up with everyone else's. Sometimes I wish people would at least acknowledge sacred Christmas, so I wouldn’t get alien stares when I say things like “Advent,” "days of Christmas" and “Epiphany.” Or that gifts would be exchanged on January 6th, like in Orthodox countries, so everyone would still be in Christmas mode during this time. But I’m resigned to the fact that most people will continue celebrating a secular Christmas with Jesus thrown in. It’s better than nothing, but there is so much more it could be.

1 comment:

  1. I think you have hit it on the head - there is the secular - two days and some turkey - and the sacred. Sadly those who inhabit the former have little time or even knowledge of the latter.

    Good Post.