Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

Christmas Just Keeps Going

on December 29, 2011
Growing up in a non-denominational Christian household (the first eight or nine years of my life, we attended an LDS church, but eventually stopped going to church all together), we always decorated for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving and then un-decorated on December 26.

Christmas was a one day event. And my world view was that all Christians celebrated Christmas this way, even the stores and public places. It wasn’t until the first Christmas that I celebrated with the BF’s family that I realized that some Christians—specifically Catholics—celebrate Christmas as a season, not a day. I remember being amazed and awed, like I was encountering an alien culture, and thrilled that Christmas was only beginning. I was not Catholic at the time, although attending mass every weekend and participating in RCIA (Rite for Catholic Initiation for Adults), but I was thinking that Catholics had it right. It made perfect sense to me.

Even though I had a wonderful RCIA class (and instructor ;)) and I have been Catholic for three years, it always seemed like Christmas lasted for months after Christmas day. Having this blog, writing posts on a regular basis and performing the research for those posts has taught me a lot of things about the Church that I had not consciously learned previously. I am amazed and awed again—thrilled actually—at the traditions of the Church. You may roll your eyes at me and say, dude, Pam, we have already covered this and now you are just repeating yourself, but bear with me as I re-cap the Advent and Christmas season.

Advent, meaning ‘the coming of Christ’, begun directly after Thanksgiving and lasted exactly 40 days until December 25. During this time, we celebrated the feast day of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6), Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Dec. 8), and Optional Memorial of St. John of Kanty (Dec. 19). The scripture readings in mass covered looking forward the second coming of the Lord; the ministry and preaching of John the Baptist, who came to “Prepare the Way of the Lord”; the joy of Christians as the coming of Jesus looms closer; the events that immediately preceded the birth of Jesus. We discussed the meaning of Advent and how to celebrate it, namely preparing our hearts and homes for the first and second comings of Christ.

 

For over a month, we Christians participated in rigorous preparation, full of prayer, meditations, reflections, decorating, gift wrapping, baking, cooking, chanting ‘Come Christ, Come’—sometimes with joy and sometimes with groaning impatience. Hopefully, we all made time to attend the sacrament of confession or lifted our eyes to the heavens with forgiveness in our hearts, turned our thoughts inwards and thought about how we could follow Christ more closely, reflected on forgiving those who have harmed us, sought forgiveness for those we have harmed, and thanked the Lord for all he has done for us. Of course, we should be doing these things regularly, but Advent is a season to focus most intently on cultivating these habits.

It seems to me like a wonderful way to start the New Year. First, to actively humble ourselves, repent and seek penance. Then to celebrate Jesus’ birth with great joy, acknowledging the day that our savior came into the world to bestow grace and forgiveness in our souls. Now, the celebrations continue—it isn’t just one day of celebrations after forty days of repentance—but twelve days, forty days, a lifetime of joy at the miracle that the Lord performed for us.

This is what awes me—the seasons of the Church that rise and falls with the life of Christ, the tools and resources that the Church provides in order to cultivate the saint in all of us; the attitudes that the Church sets—humbled repentance followed by wonderful joy and merriment; the reminders that yes! we are sinners and yes! we are saved. We are saved, not by our will, our actions or our power, but by God’s. There is not a single thing that we can do to be worthy of the grace that the Lord gifted to us. Yet, we cannot sit on our hands and tell God to do it all. We are called to be active children of God, to repent, prepare, celebrate and share. And oh my do we celebrate.

Christmas isn’t over yet (it’s really never over). Its traditional end is on the Baptism of the Lord around January 8, but more commonly ended on the Epiphany of the Lord on January 6.

So my friends: Merry Christmas.

Additional Reading:

What is the Catholic Liturgical year?

The Liturgical Year: Congregation for Divine Worship

Resources for Liturgy and Prayer for the Seasons of Advent and Christmas

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2 responses to “Christmas Just Keeps Going

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great insight! Not to mention pictures that are near and dear to my heart. One small thing – RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (It is all about Christ and not necessarily the denomination, although as Catholics we truly believe we are attempting to live the way Christ intended all his people.)

    • Pamalogist says:

      Hey thanks! I get so used to the jargon sometimes, I forgot to explain the acronymn. 🙂 It has been a wonderful Christmas– the pictures don’t do it justice. 🙂

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