1. The grace of God has appeared, saving all (Titus 2:11). A common theme among Christians at this time of year is to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Due to our fallen natures, we sometimes get swept up in the material-gift giving aspect of the season. (Do not get me wrong: Material gift giving is good. To give others presents is part of our being made in the image and likeness of God. God has created all things out of love and given us existence and the bounty of creation to live in. Giving of material gifts is a manner of being like God in His generosity and love). Of course, if the focus of our Christmas is the giving and receiving of material things without raising our hearts and minds to the reason we do so, then we miss the mark. If an alien from another planet was to come to the earth at this time of year, it may come to the conclusion that we are celebrating snow, or ribbons, or trees, rather than the birth of Jesus Christ.
2. At the same time, we must contend with those who are not merely forgetful of Jesus through stress but those who would like to wipe Jesus out completely. There are a few who object to the phrase “Merry Christmas” simply because they do not want to hear the name of Christ. And their intolerance for Christians and anything resembling a Christian culture impels them to attempt to forbid Christmas. They have no problem with the gift giving, since that might stimulate business. But they would like to keep the spiritual side of others quiet so as not to disturb the comforts of their thoughts. And many times we are all too ready to keep quiet so as not to appear rude or pushy.
3. One of the popular Christmastime movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life” - a story about a man who got to see what the world would be like if he never existed. It has made me think, what would the world be like if Jesus had never been born? That is, what if there really were no “Christ” in Christmas?
4. Well for one, we would not be reading the story of Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph would have traveled to Bethlehem and stayed in a barn because the hotel was full. But they would have been like many other poor couples. No one would know who they were or cared, even if they were holy. The Magi would not have seen the star and travelled to meet the new king. They would not have presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. On a positive note, Herod would not have killed all those children, at least not until some time later for some other reason. But we would not know it.
5. John the Baptist would have preached in vain trying to prepare the people for the Messiah. Peter and Andrew and James and John would have remained fishermen, Matthew would have collected taxes, the blind man would have died blind, Lazarus would have never been raised. Those with illnesses would have continued to suffer. The five thousand would have not eaten the miraculous lunch. Barabbas would have been executed. Paul would have lived out his days as a Rabbi in relative obscurity arguing the minutiae of the Law with others.
6. The Germanic peoples would have continued to worship trees, Egyptians worship the Nile river and the Aztecs would have continued to sacrifice humans to the sun god. There would have been no Saint Nicholas, that is no Santa Clause. There would be no beautiful Churches, no Christian art or music. There would have been no monasteries to preserve the learning of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
7. There would be no Christmas cards or Christmas music. To be honest, we would not be here together, people from every nation worshiping God as one family. There would be no priests, no deacons. No one would have eaten the Eucharist. No one would have had their sins forgiven neither in the waters of Baptism or in the Sacrament of Penance. There would have been no Resurrection, no Ascension, no Sending of the Holy Spirit. The power of death would not have been conquered and we would not have the promise of everlasting life.
8. But as it is, there is a Christ in Christmas. In our weakness, we might forget Him. Or others in their ignorance or jealousy might reject Him or try to get rid of Him. But the Word of God indeed was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and became Man. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior of the World. God did humble Himself to come and be one of us- not just to see what it would be like to be human but to give us a share in His divine nature.
9. That is the joy of Christmas: that God loves the world, that God loves us. God has revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus the Christ, and has saved us from sin and death in the mystery of His Passion, death and Resurrection. It is therefore right that we celebrate His birth. It is reasonable that we make merry and feast and give gifts and reach out to the needy in our joy. The grace of God has appeared, saving all... And we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11&13). Merry Christmas!