Happy holy days! I know some of you would prefer I say Merry Christmas, but folks… in case you forgot, I’m Jewish. I certainly don’t want to forget my siblings celebrating those marvelous holy days of Hanukkah. However, since so many of you are so concerned about keeping me as the reason for the season, I thought I might weigh in on the matter.
Let’s start by recognizing that there’s nothing innately holy about December 25th. The day was chosen to compete with ancient Roman holidays and because some thought it was 9 months after Gabriel gave the news to mom. However, for centuries you celebrated my birth on January 6, Epiphany. Slavic nations using a different calendar still do their celebrating on January 7. Regardless as to the day, I’m grateful when you remember me.
Now some of you think that the secularists are taking me out of Christmas. The truth is, Christians have been debating how to celebrate Christmas for centuries. In the 1740’s your German ancestors argued that celebrating Christmas on December 25th was a paganization. So yesterday, protestants tried to take Christ out of Christmas. Today their children are trying to keep it in. Go figure. Oh, by the way, it’s okay to write “X-mas.” “X” is the Greek letter Chi and the first letter in Christ. It is an excellent and short way to write Christ’ mass. I know that’s too Catholic for some of you <sigh> but, really… where did you think we got the name Christmas from?</sigh>
While I am grateful for expressing your concerns, I must admit I have some concerns of my own. Even if you choose to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”, you weren’t honoring me back on the day after Thanksgiving when you knocked over the person in Wal-Mart trying to muscle your way to the front of the line. I know you didn’t see her; that’s my point. And yes, that was a very nice letter to the editor you wrote when the city removed the creche from the front of town hall. But do you really think you are keeping Me the reason for the season when you spend more money than King Herod ever thought about! Folks, you spend more than 250 billion dollars a year on Christmas!!! During a recession!!!!! You could provide clean water for the world for only 10 billion, and you’d still have 240,000,000,000 left for presents. That’s a lot of 0’s and a lot of presents.
Speaking of Herod, he killed a lot of kids hunting me down. Now I’m not trying to be rude, but you need to hear this. You kill me – me, the Son of Man – every time a child dies from a lack of clean water. When someone dies because they didn’t bother going to the hospital as they didn’t have any health insurance; well that was me who died. When you spend billions on yourself while I lack a crust of bread, how can you think even for a moment, that you are keeping me the reason for the season? Folks, it’s about time you learned that I spend my time worrying about more than “holiday” trees and nomenclature.
While you haven’t asked, I too have a Christmas list this year. Well? What did you think? It’s my birthday, of course I get to ask for presents. So, here we go.
1. I want you to relax. There are things to get histrionic about in this world. The secularization of Christmas isn’t one of them. If you’re upset that there’s no creche in your town, put one in your yard. And by the way, I know I’m being picky, but the magi didn’t arrive the night I was born. In fact they didn’t come until later; much, much later. Just thought you should know.
2. Make a visit to a nursing home or the Hospice house on Christmas Day and visit someone who doesn’t have any family.
3. Give your children presenCE and not presenTS. I came to earth to be with you. The least you can do is to actually be with your kids.
4. Practice random acts of kindness and forgiveness.
5. Buy a gift or provide a meal for someone you don’t know. And DON’T make it the cheapest thing you can find. That’s the kind of thing that just drives me crazy.
6. Don’t be rude. The salesperson you just snapped at just got divorced. The person you honked at just found out his Dad has cancer. The person you just cussed out in line considered suicide recently. Since you don’t know what’s happening with others, try to treat them all like you would treat Me. And smile.
In short, if you want to remember me then re-member me. Re-embody who I am and what I value. Work for justice. Show grace to those on the fringes. You are the only Christ some people may ever meet. Let them know by your actions what I am about. And if you forgot – and it pains me to say this, a bunch of you have – the answer is love. The answer is always love.
Since Christmas is actually on a Sunday this year, I hope to see you at my mass.
The Prince of Peace