December 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Although my husband and I follow the practice of observing December as a period of preparation for Christmas, traditionally known as Advent, there is a part of me that finds it impossible not to think of the “Christmas season” as beginning shortly after Thanksgiving.
I’m certainly not one to join the line forming outside of Best Buy at 3 a.m. on Black Friday, but how can you not enjoy the fact that there is religious music being pumped into every shopping mall and available on every radio station?
Yes, there’s secular music too. But somewhere in between “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” you’re also bound to hear Celine Dion enjoining you to “fall on your knees” before the Christ Child, accompanied by the beautiful strains of “O Holy Night.”
Homes are alight, and Christmas trees sparkle cheerfully from the windows. There are plastic snowmen and Santas aplenty, but there are also countless images of the Word made flesh lying in his humble bed of straw. It is the one time of year when you can wear your religion on your sleeve, and on your front lawn, with impunity.
Of course, there will always be the P.C. police complaining on CNN about the latest public building that erected a nativity scene. Call me an optimist (something I don’t get called very often), but I think most Americans are rolling their eyes and turning off the TV as they put the finishing touches on their holiday decorating.
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What is it about Christmas that holds such a universal appeal? There are other dates that Christians have traditionally revered as even more significant than the anniversary of Christ’s birth. Most notably, of course, there is Easter: the feast of final and absolute victory, of sweet singing and unmitigated joy.
Maybe that is precisely why it does not resonate as deeply with our culture, or really, perhaps, with any of us, on a human level. Perfect happiness is a concept that eludes our fallen intellects. It is by the grace of God that we dimly grasp it, strive for it, and welcome the light of Easter that shines with an almost painful penetration into our weak, sinful souls.
And outside of our churches, where broken families have shaken our faith in unconditional love, where unwanted babies are dumped into medical waste buckets, where madmen break into kindergarten classrooms and gun down innocent children, the glorious “Alleluias” of Christ’s resurrection may seem the discordant echoes of an inaccessible happiness.
At Bethlehem there is humanity, not risen and glorified, but small, naked, and shivering. There is a gentle light that is suited to eyes grown accustomed to darkness, and a joy that is more approachable because it is subdued by the shadow of the Cross.
It’s easy to get frustrated by the secularization of a sacred holiday. But it is because God has made Himself so human, so approachable, that a world estranged from Him is still every year drawn around His crib, even as they bury it amongst meaningless trappings. Yes, there is engrained cultural habit and pure materialistic greed that drives the propagation of this holiday in a post-Christian world. But because I believe that God continues to pour His grace into our unworthy hearts, I believe that there is something deeper. There is a response to God’s condescending, irresistible love.
Christ is so intent on wooing and winning the heart of man that He has chosen to subject Himself to all this superficial glitter and tacky commercialization. Let’s wage our very legitimate war to reclaim Christmas for Christ, but let’s not forget to draw a lesson from this awesome humility of our God.