What difference does Christmas make for our lives?
In recent years, usually around the beginning of November, I’ve noticed a growing trend of Christians and non-Christians debating, arguing over and defending “the true meaning of Christmas.” Emotions run high; phrases such as “war on Christmas” and “materialism gone wild” are thrown about with either a tone of triumphant smugness or Scroogian hand-wringing. Easily lost in this news-cycle fodder is the actual meaning of Christmas. What are we celebrating? Why does it justify feasting, presents and time off? What difference does Christmas make for our lives?
In short, the feast of Christmas celebrates and memorializes an event of eternal consequence. The divine plan of redemption, or God’s dramatic rescue mission to save us from the effects of sin and death, kicks into high gear with the birth of Jesus Christ. Our entire Catholic faith hinges on whether or not God became man. We believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man. The Incarnation mysteriously unites God with us and ensures the means of our salvation. His birth in Bethlehem begins a journey that leads to the cross, by which humanity’s separation from God is healed and restored. The new life unlocked by Christ’s death and resurrection is then given to those who believe, receive and live through it. The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave now raises us from the dead to live united with God forever in heaven. St. Thomas Aquinas famously said, “The only-begotten Son of God, wishing to enable us to share in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that by becoming man he might make us gods.” (Opusc. 57:1-4; emphasis mine)
Wow. Put down your pie, pause your Disney+, turn off Michael Buble and think about that for a second. God became man so we might become God. Unbelievable, overwhelming and awesome, this action of God should stop us in our tracks and inspire us to the same response as the angels on Christmas night: “And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest ...’” (Lk 2:13-14) The most authentic and pure response to Christmas is humble, awestruck and joyful praise! We have new access to hope, joy, peace and love because of what happened in that little cave in Bethlehem. So, before we begin thanking Santa, watching our favorite holiday movie, gaining a few pounds or dashing through the snow, let’s stop and praise our King and Savior, for he truly is the reason for the season.