WHY EXCHANGE GIFTS? WHY GATHER WITH FAMILY?
Brothers and Sisters,
What season is it right now?
It is Christmas. It is Christmastide, the Christmas Season, it is very much still Christmas right now. Don’t stop saying Merry Christmas yet. Christmas is not over, we have only just begun the Christmas Season.
In fact, the Holy Faith has a strong Tradition of celebrating Christmas to the fullest. The four now gone weeks of Advent get us ready to celebrate Christmas. Christmas Eve and Christmas day get the season kicked off the a start as we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Christ. Now, however, we are in the heart of the Christmas Season. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, next Sunday we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord (this is mainly the celebration of the arrival of the Magi or the three kings), and then the modern celebration of Christmas ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on the following Sunday. In the modern celebration of the Christmas Season, the celebration of the Nativity of Christ ends with His baptism since this is seen, along with the Wedding Feast at Cana, as the start of His adult life.
As for Epiphany, I want to suggest that this is the most forgotten of the Christmas Holy Days. In contemporary America, the Christians and others tend to get swept up in the decorating of homes, the buying and wrapping of presents, and (save for this year) the going around to nearly countless homes of friends and family to celebrate the season – often before Christmas Day.
As for the Church in designing the Advent and Christmas Seasons, the idea is that we would exchange gifts not before or even on Christmas Day, but during the Christmas Season. Advent (before Christmas Day) is designed to get us in the zone of Christmas: penance, waiting and longing for Christ to come. Then, Christmas Day itself is meant to be focused on nothing other than the fact of God Himself is now very near to us – and is one of us. Once we have absorbed all of that, then can we exchange gifts. The very concept of giving gifts at Christmas is in commemoration of the Wise Men, Magi, or Kings that brought gifts to Christ. What is more, the very idea of getting together with family and friends at Christmas is recalling the Feast of the Holy Family.
We have heard that the best way to keep “Christ” in in Christmas is the keep the “Mass” in Christmas, that is of course how the Holy Day was named. Please train yourself and teach your family and friends that all of these other elements of the Season (gathering with family, exchanging gifts or presents) are part of the celebration of Christmas precisely because of the Holy Family and the gifts brought to Christ by the Wise Men / Magi / Kings.
God be near,