Christmas is for Everybody
Nowadays this greeting is gradually being replaced with “Happy Holidays”, “Yuletide Greetings”, “Season’s Greetings.” But instead of harboring negative feelings about this, let us try to consider a positive view. Perhaps one reason for this is because even peoples of different beliefs, non-Christians, who do not believe in Jesus Christ, are celebrating Christmas, or at least, involved in one way or another, in the Christmas celebration.
Some major religions have celebrations that approximately coincide with Christmas. The Jews, for example, have a festival called Hanukkah, a lesser Jewish festival, lasting eight days from the 25th day of Kislev (December) and commemorating the rededication of the Temple in 165 B.C. by the Maccabees after its desecration by the Syrians. It is marked by the successive kindling of eight lights. The Buddhists have Shakyamuni Buddha Day which is on December 27. Tibetan Buddhists meditate on the Buddha’s teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. The Muslims do not have any celebration in December, but many are involved in this season, at least in business and some social aspects.
For us, Christians, by all means let us greet each other “Merry Christmas!” For non-Christians, they can adopt a different greeting. But the fact remains: the entire world is celebrating, or is involved, or is affected by the celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Son of God Incarnate.
Pope Benedict XVI talks about the universal character of Christmas. He said: “Because of the environment that characterizes it, Christmas is a universal feast. Even those who do not profess to be believers, in fact, can perceive in this annual Christian celebration something extraordinary and transcendent, something intimate that speaks to the heart. It is the feast that sings of the gift of life…The birth of a child moves us and causes tenderness. Christmas is the encounter with a newborn who cries in a miserable cave. Contemplating him in the manger, how can we not think of so many children who even today see the light from within a great poverty in many regions of the world? How can we not think of the newborns who are not welcomed and are rejected, of those who do not survive because of a lack of care and attention? How can we not think, too, of the families who desire the joy of a child and do not see this hope fulfilled?”
Christmas is universal because it proclaims the gift of life. God chose to become just a small baby, weak and vulnerable, to show us the great value of life, even from its most humble beginnings. St. John, in his Prologue of the Gospel, expressed this very eloquently: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
The Eternal Word, God Himself, became man. Indeed, human life, the human body is so noble and so precious that God decided to take it upon Himself. He did it in order to impart to us the fullness of life. Jesus declared: “I came that you may have life, and have it to the full.”
Christmas is about life. The Infant Jesus, the Incarnate God, lying in the manger reminds us of this. Any action that leads to the destruction of human life is a direct contradiction of Christmas. Life is sacred: it comes from God. He is the God of life. And life is for everybody – from the moment of conception until the last breath of a human person.
But the celebration of life should not just be limited within the Christmas season. It should be a constant and continuous celebration all throughout our lives. That is why Jesus instituted the Eucharist, the sacrament of His Body and Blood, so that He can continually nourish us and fill us with His life. He chose to be simple bread. Aptly, then, that the Baby Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. The name Bethlehem means “House of Bread.” This Baby lying in the manger will become the Bread of Life.
Christmas and the Eucharist are identical and inseparable. It is impossible to celebrate Christmas without the Eucharist. Indeed, the word Christmas comes from the words “Christ” and “Mass”. It is essentially the “Mass of Christ”, where we receive the Incarnate Word as the Bread of Life, giving us the fullness of eternal life: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have everlasting life.”
Today, as we joyfully greet one another “Merry Christmas”, let it be accompanied by our heartfelt wish to share the gift of life to each other as we continually receive the fullness of life through Jesus in the Eucharist.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002