Comfort my People — Enjoy the holy days of Advent and Christmas

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre

Though the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday) is the most important and theologically rich celebration in the liturgical calendar, there can be no denying that Christmas comes in a very close second. It is also — perhaps from the perspective of sentiment — the favorite celebration of our liturgical year. Christmas serves to focus our minds and hearts on God’s greatest gift to us, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born at Bethlehem.

The term Christmas comes from the two terms “Christ Mass,” or the “Mass of the Christ,” which is the title this celebration eventually took on during its emergence as a Christian celebration. As time progressed, this two-word title “Christ Mass,” was collapsed into one word to form the word Christmas as we know it today.

As I stated above, I think that Christmas emerges for many people as the sentimental favorite of all liturgical celebrations for a variety of reasons. Allow me to share a few of my own thoughts on why Christmas seems to be the favorite liturgical celebration for so many.

  • Christmas seems to bring out the child and the hope that is found in all of us. As we are captured during our celebrations of the birth of the Lord by the lights, the sounds, the smells, the stories, the decorations, the music, the surprises and the food of Christmas, it is easy to understand why that within us which is enthralled by mystery would emerge as paramount during the celebration of Christmas.
    Christmas seems to engender within us the hope and promise of children, whose innocence and joy in life fascinate those of us who have long ago surrendered these virtues to what we understand to be “the reality” of life. Christmas reminds us that at the very center of who we are, there must always remain a place in our lives for mystery and wonder; there must remain a place in us for the Christ-child to enter and fill us with hope and joy.
  • Christmas has many ways of joining us together with others. Vintage Christmas crèches, Christmas ornaments, Christmas recipes or other Christmas decorations that are passed down from one generation to the next give us a sense of belonging to a long faith expression of faith in the Lord.

The Christmas traditions that surround decorating or gathering in other ways with family and friends root us in the important relationships that we have in life. Christmas also challenges us through charity to meet the needs of others during this season, as well as throughout the rest of the year. From gathering at church with our faith-family for the celebration of the Christ-Mass, to joining together with friends and family, to charity offered to others, Christmas reminds us that we are not alone on this journey of life.

  • Christmas is perhaps the most important “benchmark” celebration. By this term “benchmark,” I mean to express that Christmas is one of the celebrations that mark significant events or transitions in our lives, such as a first Christmas as a married couple; a baby’s first Christmas; the first Christmas celebrated after the death of a loved one; the first Christmas celebrated away from home; the first Christmas celebrated back home; the first Christmas in a new home and far too many others to list. Christmas has a way of helping us to reference significant events during our lives.
  • Finally, and most importantly, Christmas reminds us that in the birth of his Son at Bethlehem, God-is-with-us, and there is a comfort in this knowledge. Christmas reminds us that Jesus, born into time at Bethlehem, comes to us all the time.

We rejoice that God has joined us to himself by a bond that cannot be broken. There is a great comfort in the closeness of our Emmanuel, our God-with-us always. Christmas invites us to remember all that the Incarnation offers to us in faith and challenges us to proclaim our faith in our words and actions.

So, enjoy the holy days of Advent and Christmas! Remember that Christmas, like Easter, has an Octave, or eight days celebrated as one great day of rejoicing in the Lord.

The Christmas Octave occurs from December 25 through January 1. Together may we seek to keep holy these days by allowing the joy and celebration of Christmas Day to extend far beyond the single calendar day of December 25.

May Christ be born anew in your hearts! Merry Christmas!

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