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Christmas without Gift Wrapping

Stefan Slovak

Saturday, January 11, 2014

As in past years, Christmas 2013 was what I had expected it to be; in fact it really wasn’t all that different from any other year. Seeing family at the regularly scheduled times, being at the same masses (emphasis on the plural), hearing the same carols and even in some cases the same sermons. Christmas dinner was as always: a turkey with all of the fixings on the side. Carrot pudding was the order of business come dessert and everything felt quite comfortable. This was Christmas, as I’ve more or less known it.
However despite the annual routine, which is almost habitual at this point in my life, two important points crossed my mind. The first is the wonder and the awe surrounding this day. Even now in my twenties, I still can’t help but find excitement in all that is Christmas, no different than I did as a young child. Seeing family on the evening of December 24th, or walking up the aisle at midnight mass, has never lost its luster. It’s not as if these are things I, or most anyone else, wouldn’t normally do every other day of the year, yet come Christmas, it all feels different.
The second point that came to mind was the experience I had talking to and sharing Christmas with those who had a completely different experience over these special and holy days. I spoke and spent time with people who had come from, and celebrated this solemnity, in less consumerist-based societies and countries. It wasn’t that they didn’t give gifts, however they seemed to be focused on other things: time spent with family, sharing meals, enjoying each other’s company.
When I look back at these two observations, one commonality is clear: my Christmas and the Christmas of others I met, no matter where else they are from, generates joy. It is a joy that can only come from one thing, one instance in the history of our world: the birth of Jesus Christ. His arrival was a light unto the entire world, the birth of he who would ultimately bring us salvation, even if some didn’t know it.
It’s safe to say that there are those who celebrate Christmas or what to many has become the “Holiday Season” without even the faintest thought of Mary, Joseph or the Christ-child. Despite this, their days are intentioned to be filled with joy and celebration that for some may be completely God-free in nature. It’s the hustle and bustle of gifts and other modern pageantry that tend to fog up the light and joy that came with Christ’s birth.  Despite this, there still resonates that joy, that light and it’s foundation in Christ, even if but an ember. Without his birth, we wouldn’t have a reason to exchange gifts, to light up our streets or share a hearty meal with friends and family. Given that, it is our duty, as Christians to reach out to a world that may not know Christ’s love. To take the light he has given to us, and spread it throughout the world through evangelization.
A Christian’s joy can never be extinguished, even in places where they face great persecution and suffering, more than at any other time in history. Despite this, despite all our challenges, we are all called to transmit God’s light and His love to others, and to teach others through word and deed, just who is the real reason for the season.

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