“I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people..
a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Lk.2:10-12)
We have heard a lot recently about the idea of ‘cancelling Christmas’. In saying this, people are referring to the inability to celebrate Christmas in the way that we are accustomed to doing, because of the restrcitions placed upon all of us by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, while the celebration may have changed, Christmas has most certainly not been cancelled.
Here in the United Kingdom, we found out only last evening that even greater restrictions are now in force which mean that many people will now not be able to travel to spend any time with family and loved ones – and this is very hard to bear at any time, but especially so at this time of the year, when our focus is very much on those we love. Christmas has become a time for gathering. It has also become a time for spending and buying and our main concern can sometimes be on the presents and the meals and the whole preamble for Christmas. And in this way, the danger is that we have forgotten the meaning of Christmas. The symbols have lost their connection to what they symbolise and have become ends in themselves.
Perhaps, then, there might be some good in this ‘stripped back’ Christmas.
For so many of us, it will not – for this year, at least – be about all the incidentals which accompany what is actually a religious feast. This may offer us the opportunity to refocus on what really is the essential of Christmas, even if the means which allow us to achieve this are difficult for us.
The quotation above, from the Gospel of Saint Luke, reminds us what Christmas is in itself – the celebration of the birth of Christ the Lord, that moment when human history changed forever because the Lord became one of us and shared in our common humanity. And this truly is ‘a joy to be shared by the whole people’, as the Angel announced to the shepherds that first Christmas night.
The restriction of numbers allowed to gather for religious worship will mean that for many of us, there will be no possibility of attending Christmas Mass – and this is especially hard to bear. This particular Mass touches the heart in a very deep and meaningful way and it is a very beautiful Mass. And so we will need to find a different way to celebrate this moment.
Our Christmas Crib at home may offer a way; this little reproduction of the stable at Bethlehem, which so many of us keep at home at this time of year, is a very visual reminder of why we are doing what we are doing – it keeps us focussed clearly on the real meaning of Christmas. For many of us, the celebration of the feast of Christmas will take place before our own little nativity scene at home.
Now, while that may seem like small recompense for what we are losing this year, perhaps it is helpful to us to remember that for Mary and Joseph, that little stable was everything – it was here that Christ was born and all of us were changed forever. It was in that little stable that the Shepherds, and later the Wise Men, would come to adore the Christ Child – let us join them in whatever way we can, whether alone or as families.
Saint Luke goes on to tell us that –
“As for Mary, She treasured all these things and pondered them in Her Heart.” (Lk.2:19)
Kneeling at the Crib, let us join the Mother of God in this silent pondering and adoration of the Lord. Let us, too, ponder all these things in our hearts – for it is there that the real message of Christmas resides and has it’s meaning and begins to transform us. And nothing can take this from us.
If, like the Blessed Virgin, we keep that adoration in our hearts, then nothing and no-one can ever ‘cancel Christmas’ for us, because it’s meaning and it’s reality will always live within us.
Speaking today, our Holy Father Pope Francis also offered a very practical suggestion, which we might consider acting upon, and which will help to remind us of the meaning of Christmas –
“Instead of complaining in these difficult times about what the pandemic prevents us from doing, let us do something for someone who has less: not the umpteenth gift for ourselves and our friends, but for a person in need whom no-one thinks of!”