Jerry Novotny OMI – It’s that time of the year again. Christmas. It’s been a long year -the pandemic with its new faces still with us, major military buildups across the planet, dictators suppressing human rights, waging war on children both unborn and born, transgender men taking over women sports, daily fake news, and the list continues as we glance at the headlines in the morning newspapers. And yes, Christmas 2023 is here, at least as a holiday. Yet what is missing in today’s troubled world? Simply put, Christmas is missing. How can we possibly celebrate December 25th when Christ is missing. We claim to celebrate Christmas without Christ. It’s like celebrating your birthday without you.
Christmas. What is the real meaning of Christmas 2023? Is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the Christmas cards in the mail, meals with family and friends, snow in the backyard, stockings hanging in the living room, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets? Is this really Christmas?
“What is truly the meaning of Christmas?” I asked Google using the search words: WHAT IS CHRISTMAS.
To my surprise, most replies stated that the good news of Christmas, even when the world or our circumstances change – centers on the fact that the message of Christmas is timeless. Because Christmas is about the birth of God’s Son – Jesus. It is about how he came to give us love, hope and joy. That message doesn’t change from year to year.
Recalling the familiar figures of Mary and Joseph in the stable at Bethlehem, the humble shepherds, and the rich and powerful Magi from the East, the Pope explains, “The message of the Gospel is clear: the birth of Jesus is a universal event that concerns all of humanity.” Not only the rich and middle class, but also the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the exiles, the unborn, the naked, the ill, the prisoners, migrants, women rights and the aging society.
Christmas concerns all humanity. Rather than forcing Christ out of Christmas, humanity must put “the birth of Jesus” back into the family, into society and into today’s troubled world. The Birth of Jesus is the true meaning of life, the reason “why life is worth living.” The Catholic Church teaches us that recognition of God is in no way hostile to man’s dignity, since this dignity is rooted and perfected in God.
Pope Francis invites us again this year to return to the message of the Angel at Bethlehem: “Peace on earth to those with whom He is pleased.” He noted, with the Apostle John, that love consists “in this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us” and that “we love because He first loved us.” This is the foundation of our joy”, “the foundation of peace in the world”.
As we celebrate Christmas, we are asked to choose which gift we really want. Will we welcome God’s gift of his Son as the source of life, or will we drift to the tune of whatever music is played in the marketplace, until, rootless, we wither and die in the desert as Jeremiah tells us in Chapter 17.
With that thought in mind, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Holy and meaningful Christmas 2023 with the “birth of Jesus” at its center. And yes, the family gatherings, the meals, exchanging gifts, visiting grandparents are always very beautiful – but may there also be the awareness that the little child comes “for me” in these gatherings. He came and provided a way for me – the only way – to spend eternity with Him.