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IS ‘CHRISTMAS’ CHRISTIAN? ~ Kieran J O’Mahony OSA (Orlagh)

A magazine came through our door last week on how to have the perfect Christmas. I flicked through to see if Jesus—the ‘reason for the season’—got any kind of look in. The focus was resolutely on the externals of food, dress, gifts and decorations, with nary a hint of Bethlehem not to speak of the Nazarene. Even as an enjoyable winter interlude, the magazine was hardly accurate about Christmas.
For the vast majority, Christmas is a celebration of love and affection, family and friendship. We choose to spend more time with people. We try to choose gifts what will give pleasure and celebrate our important relationships. The only thing to ensure is that when we do eventually meet family and friends we really do meet and connect again, affirming and refreshing our important relationships. What could be more Christian than loving one another?
In a way, our ‘secular’ Christmas is as Christian as the Spire in O’Connell St. That silvery needle marks the Millennium Jubilee of 2000—which, whether others like it or not, marked the birth of Jesus of Nazareth and nothing else. It is perfectly fitting that the birth of the ‘light of the world’ (John 18:4) should be symbolised by a ‘pillar of light’ (see Exodus 13:21). Like the feast itself, the ‘secular’ Spire cannot help being Christian.
The presence of the Gospel ‘out there’ is even more apparent in the music of Christmas. In the shopping malls (our great secular cathedrals), we will hear again and again, words such as ‘God of God, light of light’ and ‘very God, begotten not created.’ The writers of the Nicene Creed would not be at all ashamed of these sentiments! It would be hard not to find ourselves wondering ‘what child is this?’ and not to feel the heart-tug to ‘come, come, come to the manger’ and not to want to join with the angels singing ‘all glory be to God on high and on the earth be peace.’ So, the core proclamation of Advent and Christmas is ‘out there’ all along: love, light, longing, especially perhaps longing.
In our heart of hearts, as believers we do not want to mark the birth without getting a glimpse of the one born for us. How can that happen this Christmas of 2015? By our choosing to ‘waste’ more time with God this Advent; by our taking up the Word of God—notably Isaiah 40-55, letting the word penetrate our hearts and change our lives. As we pay attention to our longing, we may feel ourselves drawn to Christ our light, ‘of the Father’s love begotten.’ We might even find ourselves surprised by Love itself. Now, wouldn’t that be just perfect?
AN ADVENT PRAYER (inspired by Isaiah 61)
As winter deepens, even nature seems to rest in your hands, O God. And yet, we know that Spring is already being prepared, silently yet powerfully. We know we must plant and water and yet it is you alone who give the growth. Help us to embrace again your call that we may know your blessing and joy in our lives this Christmas.