FRONT ROYAL, VA December 24, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – With the by and large modern ignorance of the meaning of Christmas, it’s quite surprising that it is still celebrated throughout much of the West.
Each year it seems that the majority of people simply become stressed around Christmas. They worry about finances. They worry about family problems. They worry about decorations. They run around for weeks upon end not really enjoying anything, and just counting down the days until Christmas is over.
Thus, I am surprised each and every year when Christmas returns. I’m always amazed that so many people, without really knowing why, will go through so much hassle. Now, some may say that Christmas is still celebrated each year by modern secular man because it is a tradition. However, our culture has a special affinity for killing traditions, so I can’t imagine Christmas is still celebrated solely because of its longstanding place on the calendar.
Rather, I think Christmas is still celebrated because of the universal power of the Christmas story. Though man may reject Christ, the essential themes of peace, joy, and generosity still resonate with his nature. Modern man may try to take Christ out of Christmas, but he can never quite shake the feeling that we out to celebrate what He brought with Him to earth on that starry night in Bethlehem.
While man may still long for the peace that only comes from Bethlehem, many in the secular world have now become the people in the inn refusing to accept the source of peace and joy. They push him to the outskirts of town, and thus they miss the peace and joy that comes at Christmas.
As Christians, we ought not to make the same mistake as our secular brethren. We should instead be meditating on the Christmas story, looking at all of its elements in a new light, and making sure that we are outside the town of Bethlehem in that little manger on Christmas night.
When meditating on Christmas, there are many striking aspects of the story. However, one that should never be forgotten is the character of Joseph. Indeed, Joseph is a direct foil to the bustling modern man. When I was growing up, I remember thinking that Joseph was just that guy off in the back of the Christmas scene. Indeed, in a nativity, your eyes are often immediately drawn to the Child and His Mother, for they are the central figures in this amazing drama. However, we must not miss the message God is teaching us through the person and presence of Joseph at Christmas.
St. Joseph, who is often called the “silent saint” because not a word of his has been recorded in Scripture, presents a striking figure next to the manger. He is a man of strength, a man who does not find it necessary to be seen in order to change the world. He is a man who does God’s will without hesitation and without pomp and circumstance. He kneels in adoration before the Child born of a Virgin.
Joseph was a man who could have been quite prominent. He was an heir to David, as the Bible describes. Jesus inherits his claim to David’s throne from Joseph. However, Joseph preferred obscurity. He did not seize the throne. Instead, he becomes a carpenter and lives a lowly life. How different this is from all those who actively seek fame and fortune!
The French theologian Fr. Marie Dominique highlights Joseph’s actions at Christmas around the Magi and the shepherds as an example to us all.
Matthew tells us that when the Magi come to the house where Christ is, they only see Mary and Jesus; Joseph is not mentioned. When the Magi appear, he is absent. Though he could be a king, he is more at home around the shepherds than the magi. When the shepherds come to worship the Christ child, Luke says that they see Mary, Jesus, and Joseph. What incredible humility from a descendant of David! He removes himself from the presence of the Magi, but he joins the shepherds in their worship of God.
St. Joseph’s role in the Christmas story is one that is directly illustrative of the role of the majority of modern Christians. Many of us are called to be like St. Joseph, silent saints who follow God’s will, worship the Christ Child in the manger, and offer up our whole lives to Him through our work.
Many of us will never stand before great political figures, but we can stand with many common workers like the shepherds. We must not strive to be recognized and applauded by important persons, but we must rather stand with the poor ol’ regular folks in the pew worshipping God. Like Joseph, we must be people of silent adoration and submission to God’s will.
Finally, Joseph was not afraid to take Mary and the Child somewhere else when there was no room in the inn. Today, Christians are slowly being pushed out of society. Like Joseph, we must not fear taking Christ with us to a manger. He teaches us that what is important is that we worship Christ whether society accepts us or not. In doing so, in serving God no matter what the culture thinks, He will have the final triumph.
We Christians can learn a lot from Joseph, as well as the Christmas story in general. This Christmas, I pray that we can all kneel at the manger, away from the inn, in humble adoration of the Christ Child. May God Bless all of you and your families, and may he give us the strength to continue His Work in obscurity.