The Christmas season we’re about to enter is a beautiful time of the year, but often very stressful. Every year, it’s too busy. Have you ever had a Christmas party cancelled? You know how it feels? It feels great. As much as we all want to see each other again after previous limited Christmases, December is now the time of shopping, online ordering, buying, and wrapping presents; get-togethers, parties; and decorating.
There’s something spiritually wrong when this happens to us every Advent and Christmas season. In the Second Reading, St. Paul identifies six sins that the Roman Christians used to practice, and they all have to do with being distracted from God. He writes, “Let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy” (Rm 13:13). Three of these sins, ‘Reveling, debauchery, and licentiousness’ are also translated as ‘orgies, promiscuity, and lust.’
The point for us is that seeking pleasure is often sinful and leads us away from God. The desire for pleasure might explain why we go to too many events; we’re afraid of missing out; maybe we’re afraid of disappointing people. ‘Quarreling’ reminds us of Christmas impatience while shopping. ‘Jealousy’ reminds us of how we compare the gifts we get on Christmas; e.g. someone got a better phone at a better price, with a better plan—it’s like a dagger.
‘Drunkenness’ is a sin because, when we choose to get drunk, we can no longer fully reason, so we’re no longer able to help, serve, and love. For some, Christmas has become a time of partying and being distracted from God, which is totally opposite the true goal.
St. Paul says, “You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep” (13:11). What time is it? The word Christmas comes from Christ’s Mass, apparently first recorded in the year 1050. It was such an important Catholic term about an ancient Catholic celebration of this incredible reality of God’s becoming man to save us—this is so important to who we are as Catholics—that it’s gone into the whole world’s culture. Those of you who are married might remember your wedding Mass; you might refer to it as your Mass. But this is Christ’s Mass. And the word holidays from holy days, first recorded before the year 950. So, imagine if we changed our mindset and start thinking about Christ’s Mass on either Dec. 24 in the evening or Dec. 25 itself, and for the holy days surrounding His birth, such as the feasts of St. Stephen, St. John, the Holy Innocents, and Mary, the Mother of God. Last week, many of us acknowledged that Jesus is the center of our lives, and many said we want Him to be. Focusing on His Mass is a powerful way to be closer to Him.
I asked Mr. Perry, our school principal, if perhaps next year we could move our school Christmas concert to the actual Christmas season, meaning, not during Advent. He mentioned how he tried to do that for years at another school and he was destroyed by the resistance!
One person said to me that some people don’t want to prolong the Christmas season beyond New Year’s Day—that’s interesting. Why don’t we want to prolong it? And what happened to the 12 days of Christmas? She said that parents are tired after the holidays, and want to have a fresh start with the New Year. Yet, I think, that’s exactly the problem: We’re tired because we have no true Advent season; we want to finish the holiday season because there’s so much pressure. The ancient Catholic season of Advent and then the holy days surrounding Christ’s Mass were never intended to be go-go-go, but were times of reflection and joy.
St. Paul writes, “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near” (13:12). He’s talking about the salvation that comes when we die, when we hope to go to heaven. The Advent season is about preparing for two of Jesus’ comings. Which? When He came as a baby to save us, and when He will come again, ‘to judge the living and the dead.’ Every Christmas means we’re closer to death, closer hopefully to going to the Father’s house.
This isn’t to be negative, but realistic. Christ’s Mass is about God’s becoming man to rescue us from the bondage of creation, and now Christmas is about bondage to commercialism. Christ’s Mass is about being rescued.
Finally, St. Paul writes, “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (13:14). ‘Put on the armour of light… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ means, according to most Church Fathers, acting like He did and living virtuously. We can’t control everything this Advent, but we can get some of our busyness and distractions under control. One simple way is to buy fewer items. Put on an armour against greed. You know how we see a sale and things are up to 70% off, and we have to buy something? Be careful of all the time we spend shopping. It’s almost certain that has nothing to do with Christ’s Mass. One gift per family member is probably enough.
Who here could use some more rest in the next few weeks? Who wants more focus? Who wants to be closer to Jesus, have more quality time with the ones we love? These are the fruits not of Christmas but of Christ’s Mass.