By Fr. Tom Tsagalakis
Recently, I read an article written by a high school student entitled ‘Reclaiming the real Christmas before it goes year-round”. He wrote, “It’s getting near Christmas, but there’s no pressure because I finished my Christmas list in October before I went trick-or-treating. I’m still thinking about more things that I may want. I’ll probably shoot for a hefty addition to my already glorious sock and underwear drawer and maybe some equipment for my I-pod.”
“And as far as hardened Christmas traditions go, I’ll probably go to the mall for a little last-minute shopping and an extended stay on Santa’s knee. I was thinking about going to services to learn about the true meaning of Christmas when I realized I could get the same message from a delightfully animated “Charlie Brown” Christmas special. Plus, if I go to church I have to wear shoes and long pants….”
“We’ve lost control of Christmas. It’s become an enormous, unstoppable beast. Christmas has devoured December with ease, dominated November and is moving into October. When I can go to the Halloween Superstore and then go next door to find an impressive array of ornaments, we’ve lost our minds. We might as well have Christmas every two months, so there’s never pressure to beat the crowds. We need to take a look at our lives and consider what Christmas is really about. If you think the answer is in the presents, think again, because you are wrong.”
We are often seduced into thinking that Christmas is about finding that perfect gift. Many of our conversations focus on that Christmas list, what cookies we’ve baked, what line we’ve waited in, and how everyone gets stressed this time of year.
The day after Thanksgiving is often the busiest shopping day of the year. Stores push for record sales as more and more merchandise fills the shelves. You see, everyone is shopping for that special “something.” Indeed, our shopping craze has become somewhat of a national pastime.
Actually, it’s really nothing new. If we go back in time over 2000 years ago, we read about a bustling Bethlehem where people in Israel traveled to their birthplace in order to be counted for the census. We know that it was so crowded, that first Christmas in Bethlehem, that Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn. It was busy, and I wonder if anyone besides the shepherds and God’s creation even noticed the birth of Christ? I often wonder the same thing about people today.
While we are so busy buying gifts and getting ready for Christmas, how many of us actually take time to experience and recognize the importance of Christ’s birth in our lives? Truly, one of the greatest gifts ever given to human kind was God becoming man through his son Jesus, so that we could be in relationship with our creator! Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate both the birth and life of Jesus. Christmas is not a time to count gifts on our Christmas list, but to account for why and how we celebrate the birth of our Lord.
Please take time to pray, meditate and reflect on a few powerful hymns of our Holy Church. Allow these words to penetrate your heart, to stir you soul to this great gift of God becoming man! Pray it often, memorize it, and pass these prayers to others and listen to God’s gentle response:
“Oh Christ what shall we offer You for coming on earth as a man for our sake? Every creature that has its being from You gives thanks to You: the angels offer hymns of praise, the heavens give a start; wise men present their gifts and the shepherds, their wonder; the earth provides a cave and the desert a manger. As for us, we offer You a Mother, a Virgin Mother. O God who are from all eternity, have mercy on us!” Holy Nativity Vespers
“The One whom the universe cannot contain, how was He contained within a womb? He who is in the Father’s bosom, how can He be carried in a mother’s arms? All this happened as He Himself had ordered and willed, and as He pleased. He who was not limited by a human body
chose to become incarnate: for our sake, He became what He was not before. He shared our nature without losing his own. Christ is born with two natures to perfect the heavenly world. “ Holy Nativity Matins
Let us make every effort, amidst all the busyness, to quiet our souls and remember the true meaning of this joyous season. Consider opening your bible and reading the Christmas story in the book of Luke. Read Isaiah’s prophesies about the coming of Jesus. Rededicate your life to prayer and ask God to help you live out and experience the words you pray
St. Athanasios said, “Christ became man so the human person may become more God-like! May we commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God. May the joy of Christ’s birth inspire you to grow in His grace and love always.