About a year ago now, I wrote an op-ed for American Watchmen which served as a direct response to Christopher Borrelli’s op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, “Why I declared war on Christmas.” It’s more of a personal memoir which turns into a sorrowful sob story. The reason for my personal perspective on it as being sorrowful is that Borrelli is a fellow Catholic.
In the essay, he states how Christmas has lost meaning for him. Yet, he still often goes to Christmas midnight Mass, a solemn, peace-filled celebration. Unfortunately, his faith has become lukewarm, and such a mentality can make this season of joy appear contrarily cold. He simply goes to Mass out of reflex, he says. Some of what I think has led to this current state in this Tribune columnist is the poor example of others’ indifference as well as the sickening consumerism/commercialism situation plaguing many first world nations such as the United States.
For as many people who say they are sick of hearing “Christ is the reason for the season,” there are just as many people who attack the season’s commercialism. However, far too many of these are associating these two phenomena as one and the same. They aren’t. Jesus Christ was not born into poverty to make everybody fret about purchasing expensive presents during the holiday for centuries to come. That’s a messed-up view of the meaning of Christmas.
Instead, Christmas is a time to deeply reflect upon the reason for Christ’s coming and the manner in which he did so. As my friend Joe Vigliotti writes for the Carroll County Times, “God’s world-changing act of love for us echoes through time, touching our hearts in deeply personal and utterly unknown ways. We exist for an instant in eternity; we exist in an ever-changing reality in which we find stability in faith, in love, in values, ideas and beliefs.”
Christ came humbly, and he gave both humbly and wholly of himself. Of his own free will, he was willing to put himself in the shoes of a man, a being with a feeble body of flesh and blood. He was born a poor child. And he let his physical vulnerability be taken advantage of – to the point of utter annihilation on the cross. He did so to save us from our own sins and to give us the purest example of charity and sacrificial love.
That is the true meaning of Christmas, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The reason gifts are traditionally exchanged is that the act stands for a way of giving of what one has. But the secular society has reduced Christmas to this notion and this alone. It’s no longer even about charity! People need to remember that a true gift, a meaningful perk or treat or giving of oneself to another, need not be something physically obtained by the receiver. A true Christmas gift can be a hug, a comforting word, or a kindly greeting card.
Similar to Borrelli, I shall be also be attending a midnight Vigil Mass for Christmas myself in just a few short hours. I must admit this time of year continues to fill me with a magic-like feeling, a great anticipation. There is still something about Christmas Eve and the morning of the 25th of December which seems so light and jolly, quite wondrous though I don’t physically see how. I love the music on the radio and my holiday Youtube playlist too. I love the glittering decor, the lights, and the miniature Nativity displays.
But the Vigil Mass can be quite sobering if you simply let God into your heart to share the joy of Christmas. There the lights are dark, yet all seems so clear. The singing is grand and holy in commemoration of the holiest of all nights.
The war on Christmas is not in as heated a set of headlines as it has been in the past. Nonetheless, its presence persists. As early as July of this year, President Trump has brought it up once again saying, “Merry Christmas! That was under siege. You’d have these big department stores that say ‘happy holidays.’ They say where’s the ‘Merry Christmas?’ Now they’re all putting up ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
(I will also note the author of the article linked to above, Ed Mazza via Huffington Post, writes “The ‘war on Christmas’ is a long-running conservative talking point that claims the holiday was somehow hidden from view.” This is not altogether the real definition. The war on Christmas is rather a placing of the Christian feast in exact equality with any other cultural winter holiday. It can also be seen as the misconstruing of the true meaning of Christmas.)
The war on Christmas did not start with Christopher Borrelli or Starbucks or the wishing of a “happy non-denominal holiday.” It is a disregard, a lack of interest in understanding and appreciating the charity of Christmas time. I’m sure President Trump would agree with me as I wholeheartedly wish you a very merry Christmas!