Friday, December 16, 2005

The world doesn't slow down for Jesus

Regulars to the World might wonder why I have yet to speak of the Holy Season of the year in which we now find ourselves. This is partly by design, because as some of you will recall I devoted large space in this blog last year to the Advent Season, and I would have done the same for Christmas had the now-infamous power outage not occurred.

Lest all of you forget, the affairs of the Church are one of the stated areas of coverage here, and Advent is certainly a yearly occurrence in the life of the Church. One of the beauties of the liturgical year, however, is that it allows us to mark the most sacred times of the year knowing full-well that our lives in this world must go on-we are in the world, but not of the world.

If I’ve learned anything about the world during this Advent, it is that the affairs of this world do not slow themselves because the time of the year is to be seen as especially holy. Centuries ago, when the whole of Western Civilization was Christian (so much so that it was referred to in the singular as Christendom) civil affairs within Christendom came as close to a halt as possible during Advent and Lent. During the Christmas Octave and the Easter Triduum, armies observed a cease-fire and no civil business could be conducted during the twelve days of Christmas from the Nativity of the Lord (December 25th) to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th).

If ever there were some small surface evidence that Western Civilization is heading toward an apocalyptic brush with secularization, it is the fact that our society cannot even come to agreement on how to respond to this time of year. If you wish someone a Merry Christmas, you may offend them, what if they are not Christian? Our Christmas trees have become “holiday trees,” our Christmas lights are now “holiday lights,” and when your kids get out of school (most likely today), if they go to a government school they are being let out for “Winter Break.” No…the birth of Christ has no coincidental value with why we have trees, lights, gifts, or a break from school or work next week.

This spirit of the secular has even bled into the churches of this country. Many “mega-churches” are not having services at all next Sunday, and their reasoning is because members will want to “spend time with their families” and won’t come to church anyway. This mentality is, quite frankly, disgusting. Is the honey-baked ham and pumpkin pie more important than the birth of the One whose birthday is the reason we have those things?

I am sorry to report that this strange lack of respect for the Almighty has even made its way to certain members of my own family. Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, as readers are aware. It so happens that, for many family members who are not Catholic, morning church services conflict with the traditional family Christmas brunch. The family solution: Just skip church and do brunch instead. Oh yes, and keep Christ in Christmas!

As Catholics, Nicole and I don’t really have a scheduling conflict between church and traditional Christmas activities. That’s because about 1,400 years ago, the Church decided it might be a wise idea to standardize the celebration of Midnight Mass at Christmas, not only because Midnight Mass is a great way to ring in the Lord’s birth, but because the Church understood that a whole lot of people might have family plans for Christmas Day, and since every Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics whether it falls on a Sunday or not, the Church wants to give everyone a chance to get to church on the 25th of December. Hence, most Catholics have the option of attending the Midnight Mass or a service later on Christmas morning. Some churches have a special evening Vigil Christmas Eve that is earlier than the Midnight Mass and counts as having fulfilled a Catholic’s obligation to go to church on Christmas.

Our Protestant brothers and sisters do not, for the most part, have it so easy. Here in the South, if Christmas falls during the week, it is often not seen as necessary to go to church on Christmas. Considering that Southerners are an instinctively Christian people by inclination, you’d think folks in the South would be beating down the door to get into the Lord’s house on the day He was born, but that is sadly not the case. Christmas falling on a Sunday has shown that for many, the concerns of the world come before their relationship with God. The world doesn’t stop for this Holy Season…sadly for their souls, neither do many people who claim friendship with Jesus Christ.

For the record, there are certain members of my family who are standing up for what is right and refusing to take their seat at brunch Christmas Day until they are finished worshiping God. I am very glad of this; I think it sets an example that needs to be lived by. Don’t just say “keep Christ in Christmas”-- Live Christ in Christmas…and after Christmas, live Christ every day.

As to our family members that aren’t Catholic: Don’t worry, we are working on them…one prayer at a time.


At Saturday, December 17, 2005 1:10:00 AM, Anonymous Matt Daley said...


I've been mulling this issue over, and I've come to several conclusions that you might be interested in.

First, is it not true that Christmas in our age is over-secularized and over-commercialized? I firmly believe it is.

I do believe that substituting "holiday" for "Christmas" when referring to Christmas trees and Christmas lights is silly -- it's akin to calling the Hanukah menorah "holiday candles". Trees and lights don't really have any overt and direct relation to the importance and religious aspect of the holiday, so why they are under attack is beyond me.

At the same time, however, if using "holiday" instead of "Christmas" (when referring to trees and lights and other items) makes someone feel better, then I really don't have a problem with it. I know that this is all an attempt by secularist-progressives to rob the entire season of its religious connotations -- but they're attacking the wrong things, for the most part.

And I don't know about you, but trees and lights are meaningless in the long run to me. While our family (like most others) celebrate certain secular aspects of the holiday, the religious implications of this most Holy time of year are far, far more important. Let them have the trees and the lights -- we have the Lord Jesus Christ! I think we come out the winners there.

As for the retailers who refuse to allow their employees to say "Merry Christmas", the easiest way to fight back on that is to simply not patronize the offending retailers. Or, better yet, people could simply choose to use their money for better, more charitable purposes than buying oft-needless gifts. It's very true that we can honor the season and the spirit of giving in many ways other than shelling out our hard earned money to careless merchandisers.

Finally, I feel very sorry for those churches who refuse to have services on Christmas and for those people who refuse to attend services and remember the birth of Jesus. All we can do for those lost souls (and lost churches) is pray for them. They certainly need the prayers.



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