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December 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Government interference in the life of a young couple a number of years ago forced them to break away from their normal way of life, their treasured habits, their relatives and friends, and made them experience their first Christmas unlike anything they wanted or ever could have imagined.

The government orders were clear. No one dared argue against or oppose them. To do so could mean large fines, imprisonment, and maybe even something worse. And, the timing couldn’t have been more terrible. The young woman was pregnant and was due any day. And now they were being ordered by the government to leave their home, their friends, their support network, and travel dangerous roads to the man’s hometown — about a week-long journey if the weather was good — for a ridiculous population survey. Of all the troublesome measures the government had imposed upon the people lately, this certainly was the most difficult.

The couple didn’t have much of a plan worked out in advance. They would adapt as they went along. Their plan looked something like this:

  1. Travel 80 miles from current dwelling to hometown as quickly as possible (no sightseeing).

  2. Avoid running into troubles like robbers, hope the weather stays good (pray for God’s protection).

  3. Find lodgings at destination ASAP (before baby comes, pray for God’s help to find a place).

  4. Register for survey (sigh).

  5. Deliver baby in a nice location with lots of amenities and lots of help.

  6. Make plans to return home with new baby.

  7. Get back to normal life as quickly as possible.

Not much went as planned. When the couple got to their destination, all the lodgings were already booked. There was no place for them to stay.

Where were they going to have the baby? Out in the street? In some alley? This was the couple’s first Christmas, and it seemed like nothing was working out the way it should have – and all because the government had decided to do something as ridiculous as counting the population.

Some kind person took pity on the young couple as they wandered aimlessly through the streets, offering them a place to sleep in a barn if they wanted it.

It was not the kind of place the husband wanted, or even could have imagined, to host the couple’s first Christmas. But, it was what was available, and so he accepted it.

“And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.”

As government lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings, and numerous other protocols due to the coronavirus are imposed upon many of us this Christmas, it is helpful to keep in mind that the first Christmas happened the way it did because of government interference. And, even more importantly, it turns out that behind the government’s interference in the lives of Mary and Joseph was the hand of God directing history and working all things for good for those who love and trust in him (Rom 8:28).

Caesar Augustus’ census uprooted Mary and Joseph from their hometown and forced them to travel to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem. But through this, God was bringing the couple to the place where the prophecy would be fulfilled that the Messiah would be born in the city of David since he would be one of David’s descendants.

No lodgings were available for Mary and Joseph. What was needed was a palace or a royal residence to deliver the most important baby in the history of the world. What was available was a dirty stable filled with animals. Through this, God was revealing to what level he was willing to empty himself (Phil 2:7) in order to draw all men to himself (Jn 12:32). Being surrounded by animals in a stable, the God-man was also revealing that he was the new Adam who was coming to make all things new (Rev 21:5).

There was no princely crib to lay the baby in, but only a manger from which the animals ate hay and grain. But through this, God was revealing that his Son was the bread of life whom people must eat if they are to have eternal life and be raised up on the last day (Jn 6).

From a human perspective, the first Christmas was an unmitigated disaster brought on by government meddling in the lives of good, honest people. But from a divine perspective, the first Christmas revealed the hand of God working powerfully behind the mandate of secular authorities to bring to pass his plan and to let the world know what kind of God he truly is.

While many of us in various places around the world will not be able to honor Christmas as we have done in previous years, either through lack of access to the sacraments or gathering restrictions, such restrictions imposed by the authorities are a good opportunity to try to discern how God is working and what he’s doing behind the scene. They may help us to recall what the true meaning of Christmas really is.

I reached out to some LifeSite staff living in various parts of the world to see what their restrictions are and how they are going to celebrate Christmas despite them. Their answers provided me with proof that no matter what our governments may be doing, no one can take away our faith and the reason for our hope.

England

The government is enforcing that churches can only have 50% of capacity, as well as saying that masks be worn, and tickets be obtained to attend Mass. Other parts of the country have set strict limits of people allowed in the church, no matter the size. Marshalls have to ensure that members of the congregation follow one-way systems, leave their contact details and avoid human contact.

Despite this, I and many of my friends, will continue regardless to attend Holy Mass, making it as normal as possible. The church will be full of the sound of happy carols over Christmas, and people will gather in the same fervor and devotion as at every Christmas – just eager to pray at the crib.

Christmas is a time of great spiritual renewal. There is a sense that just as Christ is born amongst us, so are our spiritual lives given new life and energy, to carry on into the next year. Family time is of course a huge part as well, and simple moments spent together are so up-lifting.

France

In France, we can consider ourselves to be lucky that the current nationwide curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. will exceptionally be lifted on Christmas Eve. For many people in secularized France, the feast of the birth of Our Lord has little meaning beyond the so-called “Réveillon:” a festive family dinner with refined delicacies and carefully chosen wines, but cancelling this would probably have been the last straw at a time when anger against COVID-19 restrictions is growing. The “recommended” number of diners is no more than six adults.

For practicing Catholics, thank heaven, Midnight Mass will be an option, but severe restrictions apply: one person per 6 square meters, masks, and also– in some dioceses, not because of government rules but by episcopal decision – a ban on communion on the tongue. Many parishes have chosen to ask the faithful to register for Mass and there will be controls at the entry, often by checking an internet-generated reservation number.

Our Christmas lunch on the 25th will be festive and traditional, and we intend not to leave anyone out. In France, the police can’t come inside people’s homes to check what they’re doing. Not yet…

Australia

We consider it a huge blessing that we will be leaving the city and visiting relatives who live on a semi-rural mountain where restrictions are not so heavy. Here we can enjoy some peace and quiet, quality time with family who we hadn’t seen in a year, and unplug from the chaos currently happening in the world for a while.

Had we remained in the city, we would not be allowed at many beaches, numbers at Christmas Masses would be severely limited, and we would not be allowed to spend Christmas Day with my wife’s family as our numbers would exceed ten people.

For us, we try to make Christmas especially about the joy and peace brought to the world at the birth of the Savior King. We try to slow down, to further detach ourselves from the world, and to focus on quality time, prayer, good food and lots of time outdoors.

USA, East Coast

At the beginning of December, our County Council tightened rules for gatherings, essentially making fellowship and communal worship impossible, if not criminal.  Gatherings in homes are discouraged. It was sad at Thanksgiving to watch neighbors hold Holiday dinners in their driveways. Visiting family members and friends wore masks at all times and were only allowed into the hosts’ house one at a time to use the bathroom.    

We will have both a Christmas Eve and a Christmas Day dinner with all our immediate family members and as many friends as possible.  We are conspiring with friends from our parish to go out caroling this week, despite the County’s regulation that anyone singing must stand at least 12’ away from others.  If someone calls the police on us, I’m sure we’ll be singing Silent Night as they haul us away in a paddy wagon.

Christmas means one thing only to me: The Incarnation. It no longer stirs sentimentality or nostalgia in me.  It’s a recognition of that pivotal moment when God entered time and space to shed his blood for our redemption.

USA, South

My local government is putting caps on the size of gatherings, including private Christmas celebrations, with an essentially arbitrary number limit.

I am celebrating Christmas this year by going to Mass and spending time with family in different households. The celebration of Christmas to me is something everyone can do, no matter what their circumstances: Drawing close to Christ through interior quiet and contemplation of Him, and experiencing His peace and joy.

Scotland

The authorities have banned people visiting each other except on Christmas Day, and even then it's solely a 24-hour pass.  Mass is still reduced to 40 people.

We are going to have a lovely traditional Christmas Eve supper anyway, go to Midnight Mass, and then go to friends out of town for Christmas Day.

Christmas is about God coming among us in the most unexpected way! And thus it is also about celebrating with other Christians.

Eastern Canada

The province borders are effectively closed, requiring a 14-day isolation if crossed. Hence a Christmas visit from any family members from out of province becomes impossible. Seeing and hugging family members is part of family life, especially on great feasts of the Church. Going to Mass requires masks, making breathing difficult and fogging up glasses making sight difficult too. Forcing reception of Holy Communion in the hand violates our conscience as well as Catholic Church teachings.

We are going to get together with some like-minded friends who are in the same situation as us. Good friendship bonds are being made stronger. As to the faith, we have the blessing to get a private Mass and are therefore able to receive Jesus kneeling and on the tongue as we should to adore the Baby Jesus, Savior and King.

Christmas reminds me strongly of the generosity of God who sent His Only Begotten Son over 2,000 years ago. It is also a time to remember that Christ will come again at His Second Coming. This Christmas, however, we also share His Cross by being forced into isolation because of the modern-day Herods and faithless prelates who go merrily along with the errors of Russia, Marxism, in the way they cave into secular demands and practically cancel the sacraments. So, we suffer with Baby Jesus in the spiritual cold with only a few adorers. We, the few, are the animals in the cave trying to keep Baby Jesus warm with our love. We offer up our sufferings, in union with Jesus, as gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We show our love by living in virtue, offering adoration, and dying to selfishness, knowing that in the not too distant future the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph, and the Church, and therefore also the world, will be renewed. We never lose hope in spite of the suffering.

Hungary

Living in Hungary during the “Covid crisis” has been relatively easy. Yes, there is a mask mandate and a curfew, but nothing particularly overbearing. And, since the mask mandate only applies to cities of more than 10,000 people, we have been spared as we live in a village of approximately 120 year-round inhabitants.

From the beginning of the crisis, the Hungarian government has been very accommodating to churches and religious people. In fact, since March of this year, the government here has not mandated any church closures whatsoever because they have respected the Church's autonomy in this regard. And, the Church re-instituted the obligation to attend Holy Mass back in August and has not rescinded that obligation since.

We will be attending Holy Mass on Christmas Eve – perhaps at midnight, since the government just (today) suspended the curfew for December 24th.

Over and above the question of restrictions, Hungary has much to offer in terms of Christmas traditions. From special Christmas meals, to actually still hanging sparklers and chocolates in the Christmas tree, to the visitation of family and friends over Christmastide, the holiday still seems like the observance of a holy day.

And, in that regard, Hungary still offers to believers some “sacred space” where a little interior quiet can be carved out expressly for the appreciation of the gift that Christ's coming into our world truly is.

South Africa

Midnight Mass for Christmas 2020 is out of the question for the authorities recently reinstated the 11pm to 4am curfew. There is also a limit of 100 people for indoor gatherings and the church authorities allow even less into the churches. When one does go to Mass, one has to book beforehand, practice social distancing and wear a mask throughout the whole Mass. We must also receive Communion on the hand.

Our family always goes all out for Christmas and this year is no different. Our beautiful, big Christmas tree is adorning our lounge and the Nativity Scene graces our home with its story. Our Christmas cakes (made from my great-grandmother's recipe) are maturing with a good soaking of brandy. In a few days, we will add the marzipan and icing. Christmas Carols are in the air with all our favorite CDs including the Irish Tenors, Helmut Lotti and the Drakensberg Boys Choir. Last night, our family hosted a Christmas Carol Evening for our neighbors which was great fun and a special opportunity to share the spirit of Christmas in a secular and Godless society.

Christmas is definitely my favorite time of year. It is a time for being together and celebrating the first and most wonderful Christmas gift mankind has ever received. It is a time of generosity, of thoughtfulness, of love. Christmas has certain scents such as pine, brandy, fruit cake, gammon. It has special sounds such as carols, rustles around corners, and the indignant reply to all questions: “Christmas is not a time to ask questions!” My siblings and I are all still at home, and I treasure all the moments that we have together. And Christmas is no exception! Who knows how many more Christmasses we will be able to celebrate freely and as a family. We must count our blessings for there are many! Merry Christmas!

Western Canada

Where I live, the government has banned all in-person gatherings. No one other than those who live in the same household can congregate inside. This means many parents and grandparents will be abandoned for Christmas, which is a severe mental health crisis.

They have also severely restricted the size of church attendance, meaning that if you were not quick enough to register your spot, literally a minute or two after your local church opened registrations for Mass, you are out of luck.

I am going to visit my parents and my in-laws. They are all advancing in age. For them, the chance to see their children and grandchildren is stronger than any medicine or vaccine would ever be for their health. Mental Health has been forgotten by our government officials. Depression is a dangerous disease that can literally kill you, and I would argue is far, far, worse than COVID-19 for a person of advancing age, or any age for that matter.

To me Christmas first and foremost is giving glory to God for giving me the gift of life and blessing me with parents who raised me well. It is also thanking him for giving me a lovely wife and kids, and a good job. It is thanking him for sending his only Son into this world so that mankind could be saved through Christ’s sacrifice. It is a time of hope, joy, renewal and forgiveness.

It also means spending time with extended family. This is very important for me, and literally everyone I know. For a government to tell someone that they cannot visit their parents, brothers, or sisters is wrong. What governments have done is try and pervert Christmas by saying it is useless, has no meaning, and that it does not matter. This should be resisted at all costs.

Mexico

I live in a Mexican state where the governor has imposed very strict limitations in the past. In early November, as the number of COVID cases rose, he imposed an even tighter lockdown than earlier lockdowns, and prohibited people from using all public transportation on the weekends. The people responded with massive protests and as a result, the governor eliminated the restrictions, and now the restrictions are very light; one must wear a mask when entering a store or other business, receive a temperature test, and wipe one’s hands with antibacterial soap, but that is all.

For Christmas this year, the state’s secretariat of health is only recommending that family gatherings be restricted to ten people, but this is not being imposed. This is more in line with the country’s president, who has said that lockdowns are “fashionable among authorities … who want to show they are heavy handed, [it’s] dictatorship. A lot of them are letting their authoritarian instincts show. . . the fundamental thing is to guarantee liberty.”

I and my wife will be passing the 24th and 25th of December with members of her family, and going to Mass of course on the 25th.

Christmas is the principal celebration of the Incarnation of Christ, which initiates the re-creation, the renewal of the world following the fall from grace of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Jesus is the new Adam, and Mary the new Eve. We celebrate on this day the beginning of our redemption and the restoration of all things according to the providential will of God. It is also a wonderful day for children, who can see that Christ passed through every stage of life, even infancy and childhood.

In all circumstances, give thanks

Dear reader, as you celebrate Christmas this year, no matter what your situation, be filled with the certainty that government can’t stop God’s plan for salvation and government certainly can’t stop Christ’s faithful followers from giving thanks that God sent his only Son into the world to die for us, to redeem us, and to open up the possibility of heaven to us.

The birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ changed the world forever. No government mandate, no restrictions, no COVID protocols can blot out what He did. Christ’s life and teachings will continue to inspire our hearts with faith, hope, and charity.

As Scrooge’s nephew related to his uncle, the covetous old sinner, who steadfastly refused his nephew’s persistent invitation to celebrate Christmas with family and friends: “I have made the trial [of inviting you] in homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas humor to the last. So, a merry Christmas, uncle!”

Christ is born. Glorify him!

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