It seems every year that the variance between Christmas of popular culture and Christmas of the Gospels grows wider. Let's not fret about the superficialities of the Christmas of popular culture. Those who understand and value the Christmas of the Gospels should recognize that it is both the antidote to the Christmas of popular culture and a great opportunity to reflect on the reality of God-become-man. In particular, this antidote and reality include humility.
Christmas, in my estimation, is not a time to engage the intellect in understanding the wonder of God's initiative and his response to human misery as a consequence of The Fall. But rather it is a time to engage the heart, like Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, in accepting the plan of God as a reality beyond human comprehension. It is the heart where humility grows.
Certainly, we can all benefit from meditating on our Holy Father's Midnight Mass homily: God Finds a Space, Even If It Means Entering Through the Stable . There are certainly other excellent homilies and reflections on the Christmas of the Gospels as well. We should certainly notice that the theme of humility marks all excellent homilies at Christmastime. It is unavoidable! This humility is far from "us vs. them" in "taking back Christmas" and the like.
In our technologically sophisticated society, this humility should remind us, as Pope John Paul II reminded America in 2001, that for "a truly humane future, man must remain the master, not the product, of his technology." This mastering goes beyond human cloning, IVF, genetic manipulation and so forth. Consider our reliance and interaction with technology at Christmas time: parking spaces, automobile travel, electronic Christmas cards, internet shopping and the like. These appear in sharp relief to the humility of the Holy Family in a stable in Bethlehem.
Likewise in the life of Faith, just as in the secular life, this humility needs to take root as well. The Christmas of the Gospels — the whole Gospels themselves —is about obedience, perserverance and trust in God; not a promise of "health and wealth" (e.g. the message of Joel Osteen and Rick Warren). Our actions and decisions all have consequences for good or for ill. Surely obedience, perseverance and trust in God will bear much more fruit in happiness, peace, and serenity, than trusting in a promise of "health and wealth."
Blessed Christmas to all readers of this blog!
Photo: 2007 National Christmas Tree, Washington, DC ( washingtontimes.com )