Christmas is a thoroughly Christian feast. Jesus is the reason for the season! Our secularistic society, in an attempt to not offend those of other beliefs, has done much to despiritualize one of our greatest feasts, to make one of our most cherished celebrations some sort of generic winter holiday, a time to go shopping. Other faiths and cultures may have winter festivals, but we Christians celebrate Christmas, and if we are true to our identity and heritage, we will keep Christ as our primary focus through the Advent-Christmas season, not the holiday season. There are many ways to keep Christ in Christmas. Here are a few practical suggestions.
Decorations. Feature Christian symbols. Start with an Advent wreath. Place a star on top of the Christmas tree or anywhere else, because a star appeared when Jesus was born. Use angels, because an angel appeared to the shepherds and choirs of angels sang the first Christmas night. Use candles because Jesus is the Light of the World. Emphasize white and gold, the liturgical colors for Christmas, symbols for light, joy, and glory. Use evergreens which represent God’s everlasting love. Put up a crib set or a manger scene to commemorate the entire event.
Christmas cards. Use cards that emphasize a spiritual aspect of the feast: scenes like the Christ child in the manger, the shepherds at the crib, the three Magi offering gifts, or a shining star in the midnight sky. Or, use a card with a scripture quote, something like “For unto us a child is born” (Is 9:6) or “Glory to God in the highest” (Lk 2:14). Use Christian stamps.
Christmas music. Play distinctly Christian Christmas carols, hymns like Silent Night, Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and many others like them; or a great classical work like Handel’s Messiah.
Christmas greetings. Say “Merry Christmas,” not “Happy Holidays.”
Reconciliation, Scripture, and Prayer. Prepare to receive Christ on Christmas with a clean heart. Approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation for pardon and peace, and leave unburdened with joy. Reserve some time to read and meditate on the Infancy Narratives in the gospels: Mt 1-2 and Lk 1-2. Pray at the Advent Wreath, at dinnertime, in the car, wherever, concentrating on Jesus’ miraculous birth.
Christmas Mass. Have the Eucharist be the focal point of the Christmas celebration. Attend Mass on Christmas Eve, Midnight, or Christmas morning.
Gifts. When Jesus was born, he gave us himself, and so we give to others. It is wonderful to give presents, but the most precious gift of all is our presence. Please, give your love to someone this Christmas because the best way of all to celebrate is to be Christ to one another.
About Father Michael Van Sloun
Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Wayzata, Minn. As a former school principal, high school instructor and athletic coach, he has always been a teacher. He now teaches the faith as a homilist, Bible study leader, retreat director, pilgrimage guide and author of numerous articles.
© 2006, Rev. Michael A. Van Sloun
Used with permission.