Merry Christmas! (Christmas is not over!)
A Blessed New Year! (For us Catholics New Year's Day is the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God!)
Each day of the octave of Christmas we celebrate Christmas again. The glory, the wonder, the awe of the good news that heaven has bent down to earth to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves: rescue ourselves from the sin that plagues us and from which none of us could extricate ourselves on our own. We needed One who was the Righteousness of God in our flesh who could pay for us the penalty of the ancestral sin and turn around to bestow on us the benefits of his self-offering. We now are sons of God, co-heirs of eternal bliss, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ who loves us more than we could ever imagine.
A deep mystery is manifested in the movement of the liturgical celebrations and readings from day to day in the Christmas season. Right after Christmas, when Jesus is heralded by the angels as the Savior of the world, the Prince of Peace for all ages, we celebrate the feast of one person, Mary, the Mother of God. And for those who participate in Mass daily, we have met other individuals in these days: St. Stephen, St. John, the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas Becket. We have moved in the course of 24 hours from crowds to the individual, from grand announcements to individual commitment, from everyone in the world to members of the unique community of disciples. Christianity is not about crowds, but individual human beings who respond to the heralded good news with their life, their time, their careers, their ministry….
We move from the angels who taught the shepherds about the meaning of this Babe born in Bethlehem to the whispered confidences of a young mother, Mary, the Mother of God, whom we celebrate on January 1. She--celebrated on this day when we pray for peace in the world and hope for a blessed New Year--shows us that we can achieve these two goals only by holding close to us the God who alone is the Source of any good, whether it be personal virtue or international peace.
The horizon of the fields of Bethlehem where the angels first sang, and the even vaster horizon of the ages which they sang about, gives way to individuals who within one home, one lifetime, one period of history said their Fiat, their Yes, gave their time and very lives to respond to the celestial song so fully that it changed the horizon of their life forever.
We move from listening shepherds to the continual abiding that John speaks of in his Gospel and which the Mother of God, who pondered everything in her heart, lived.
We move from numbers to quality and depth. We exchange sleep for wakefulness, night for day, worldly importance for an absorption in heavenly realities. And, finally, we exchange a “silent night” for the triumph that Isaiah speaks of:
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.
So for you and for me, the world’s Christmas celebration may have ended, but ours has just begun. It is not simply that our neighbors may have already taken down their Christmas trees, radio announcers put away Christmas music for another year, or local retail stores hung up their signs for Valentines Day. For you and for me, baptized in Christ and fed at his table with his Body and Blood, Christmas carries on throughout the year.
St. Augustine once said that Jesus came to earth as to a wedding. With his birth, the universal invitation has been issued…we have all been invited to the Wedding. Are you coming?