It is only too true that religion, for many, has dissolved into an emotion no longer based on anything real, because the faith that once fed this feeling has disintegrated. Yet, in a certain respect, even more destructive may be the attitude of those who consider themselves believers but confine their religion equally to the realm of feelings only, excluding it from the rational proceedings of their daily lives, in which they pursue exclusively their own advantage. Obviously such an attitude is but a caricature of true faith.
It is precisely the overwhelming realism of God’s love, proclaimed through Christmas, and God’s action, going beyond mere words by assuming the misery and burden of human life, that should challenge us year after year to assure ourselves of the realism of our own faith and to reach beyond the sentimentality of mere emotions. If we gain such insight, then we will certainly also arrive at an attitude that refuses to pass unreasonable judgment on our emotions.
In the closing prayer of the [former Christmas Vigil] Mass, the faithful ask God for the grace, through the celebration of his Son’s birth, to “draw new breath”. Why and in what sense they wish to “draw new breath” is not explained, and so we are at liberty to understand this expression in the human and simple meaning of the words. This feast ought to let us draw “a breath of fresh air”. Admittedly, given the way we have burdened this feast with busyness nowadays, it much sooner renders us breathless and suffocates us in the end with deadlines. But all the more, then, are we told that this feast was provided so we might find some tranquility and joy; so that we might accept its offer of pleasant festive feelings as God’s gift to us and without embarassment.
It just may be that we, thus drawing a new breath, are priveleged to sense something of the breath of God’s love, of sacred peace whose gift to us is the blessing of Christmas. It is for this reason that we should not single out those who feel they cannot have faith anymore and try to rob them of their emotions, which may remain as the last echo of their faith and which may allow them to be part of that breath of fresh air of the holy night, which is permeated by the breath of God’s peace. Rather, we ought to be grateful for their preserving this last remnant of God’s gift on Christmas and ought to make an effort to celebrate a blessed Christmas with them all.
From: Dogma und Verkundigung, pp. 38f.