It's pretty obvious looking around that we know how to celebrate Christmas. The streets, storefronts, and houses are all aglow in beautiful lights and decorations. The radio stations are all playing favorite Christmas carols and songs. Favorite Christmas-themed TV shows are broadcast daily, and new holiday shows are created and shown every year. Yes, we do know how to celebrate Christmas, but do we really stop and think about why we're celebrating? It is merely for an excuse to give gifts and get family and friends together for an elaborate meal, or is there something far deeper and more profound to our celebrations?
For several years, the Knights of Columbus have supported and spread an annual campaign: "Keep Christ in Christmas". The primary purpose of this campaign is to go against the secularization of this most holy of holy days, trying to prevent Christmas from becoming a generic winter holiday with warm fuzzy feelings and not much substance.
While that primary purpose is laudable, and should be highly encouraged, I think there's another way that we can "Keep Christ in Christmas". For most of us who are Christians, do we ever think about how profound the Christmas message really is? How many of us stop and look at a manger scene with amazement that the God who created us and loves us became man?
In our Gospel this night, we see Jesus being born in a shelter for animals, and being laid in a food trough for the animals. The inns were full, and the Holy Family had to find whatever shelter they could in this small town that had been filled to overflowing. Because of this, Our Lord, the second person of the Trinity, was born in humble surroundings.
As God, he could have been born anywhere He wished, but chose a life of humility. Even the proclamation of His birth by the angels showed humility. Instead of proclaiming to great kings and rulers of the Earth, the angels appeared to humble shepherds, grazing their sheep on the hillsides surrounding the town of Bethlehem. The message the angels proclaimed, however, was not one of humility, but one of exultation: "a savior has been born to you who is Christ and Lord." (Luke 2:14) This innocent and humble child, born in simple surroundings to a simple family who lived a humble life, has come to save us. As we heard in the first reading, the hope of Israel foreseen by the prophet Isaiah, in fact the hope of all the world, came into the world as an unknown.
St. Paul reminds us that Jesus "gave Himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness, and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good." (Titus 2:14) This innocent child, born in a shelter for animals, is fully God and fully human. God became one of us to save us from our sins. He came to Earth to give His life in sacrifice so that we might have life eternal. When we look at Our Lord in the manger, we see the Cross overshadowing Him. This is why we celebrate this holy day. This is why it's so important to "Keep Christ in Christmas". Christmas would be pointless if we didn't recognize the one for whom we celebrate.
On this Christmas night, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and hope that this Christmas season is one of joy and peace for you and your families. During this season, I encourage you to take time with your families and friends to reflect on the most wonderful gift we've all received on Christmas: the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.