“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. ’” When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’” So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.”
(New American Bible, Luke. 2:1-20)
Yes, folks you are reading the title of this reflection correctly, Christmas is not only a day in the Church year, but a season as well! In fact, it is the second most joyous season in the liturgical year. What is the most joyous season you may be asking yourselves? The answer is (drum roll, please)…..EASTER!! (If you don’t believe me, ask Fr. Liju.)
What does the term Christmas mean, where does it come from?
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary our word Christmas derives from the Middle English word, Christemasse, which come down to us from the Old English words, Cristes mæsse, literally, Christ’s mass. The first known use: before 12th century.
What does the Church celebrate on this day and during this season?
Christmas Day celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, the birth of Jesus Christ.
The season of Christmas, in addition to celebrating the birth of Jesus, is a fuller celebration of the Incarnation. As the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states, “The word incarnation is from the Latin in carne means enfleshment”. (USCCB)
The Incarnation is one of those core, essential and elemental beliefs of the Church: God became human; God became one of us. This great news cannot be overstated: God became human so that we might partake in the divine! This is what Athanasius of Alexandria meant when he wrote in his treatise, On the Incarnation, “Christ was made man that we might be made God.” (54:3, PG 25:192B).
During the Christmas season, the Church celebrates and reflects upon, as the U.S Catholic Bishops state further: “the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…” (USCCB).
How long is the Christmas season?
The Christmas season begins on Dec.25th and ends on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
What are some traditions and practices that Catholics can perform during the Christmas season?
Most of us put up and decorate a Christmas tree; many of us put a wreath on our front doors; some of us put (electric) candles on our windowsills. What else can we do to commemorate the season or celebrate it appropriately?
Here are some activities that families and/or individuals can perform and use, perhaps, to create new traditions to pass on:
• Blessing of a Christmas tree: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/sacramentals-blessings/objects/blessing-of-a-christmas-tree.cfm.;
• Blessing of the Christmas manger or Nativity scene: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/sacramentals-blessings/objects/blessing-of-a-christmas-manger-or-nativity-scene.cfm.;
• Attend Mass on Christmas Day or the Christmas vigil as a family or with friends;
• Reflect/Meditate on the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, what does this event mean or say to me;
• Read from the infancy narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke;
• Gather with family or friends as a sign of friendship, community and fellowship – have brunch, have a potluck dinner or an hors d’oeuvre party;
• Take a few moments, after the “pre-season” rush, to contemplate the real importance of the day and the season.
Jesus is the reason for the season!
Athanasius of Alexandria. On the Incarnation. http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/659669-de-incarnatione-verbi-dei. n.d. Web. Nov. 23, 2014.
Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Christmas. 2014. Web. Nov. 23, 2014.
The New American Bible. The Vatican, 06 Nov. 2002. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM>
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/christmas/index.cfm. 2014. Web. Nov. 23, 2014.