WAIT . . . WAIT . . . IT IS NOT CHRISTMAS YET
Brothers and Sisters,
It is tough to feel like the one and only holdout. People have been wishing me “merry Christmas” for weeks now and I always feel a bit Scrooge-like when I respond with “Blessed Advent.” Certainly there are Christmas cards flying through the mail and Christmas programs at all three of our parishes in the past week but I need to insist upon this: it isn’t Christmas yet.
Here’s the thing: Christmas isn’t just a day, it is a whole season long. There’s so much more to it than just the anniversary of the birth of the Messiah.
Firstly, the prophets and the whole Hebrew people in the Old Testament were waiting for centuries to see the coming of Christ; our excitement for Christmas Day reminds me of the prophets – that eagerness, the joy, the “I just can’t wait” feeling for Christmas. That’s a prophetic voice inside of you that is just so excited to celebrate the birth of the Redeemer. Advent, as short as it always is, is our meager experience of the Old Testament expectation of the Messiah; we wait, we are all-too thrilled to celebrate Christmas, but just like the prophets and the Hebrews of old, we need to wait patiently for the coming of the Christ.
Christmas Day, then, is not really the end of Advent at all but rather the beginning of the celebration. On the day of Christmas, yes, Holy Mother Church rejoices with a firework-like excitement that we at last know that God is very near (that is: ‘Emmanuel’ / God is near). I make this my sign-off of my articles, letters, and e-mails because – even though, strictly speaking, Christ has not yet “done anything” (if you will) – the mere fact that He became human nine months prior at the Annunciation and now is born has changed everything about creation. It is a bigger change than if the world had stopped turning, it is a bigger change than if gravity suddenly ceased to exist, and it is a bigger change to you than if you were born to different parents on a different continent. The coming of Christ changed the Earth, and the Season of Christmas shows us just that – Christmas is not a single day, it is a whole season.
Here’s a concrete example: when a family is celebrating the birth of a child, we recognize that it is a nine-month or so event – the recognition of the woman being with child, the excited telling of family and friends, all of the various parties and gifts leading up to the birth, and then at last the birth of the child. I am sure we all agree: the birth is not the end of the family celebrating, it is just getting started. The change that started nine months ago now takes on a new urgency and a special joy. Christmas is only just about to start, don’t abandon the Holy Family right after the birth.
God be near,