Keep Christmas Alive

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul, 01 January 2020

Wednesday, Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

Numbers 6:22-27 ><}}}*> Galatians 4:4-7 ><}}}*> Luke 2:16-21

Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual, Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC, 2017.

Today marks the octave or eighth day of Christmas when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

Octave means we extend the celebration of Christmas Day into eight days because one day – December 25 – is not enough to reflect on the meaning and mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.

The eighth day also signifies eternity which comes next after the seven days of the week.

Hence, whenever people greet me on this day with a “Happy New Year”, I just say “thank you” and then greet them too with “a blessed Christmas to you” or the usual “Merry Christmas”!

I am not disturbing your peace this Christmas and it is more than my being a “language nerd” – but, if you really want to appreciate more and experience the depth and the joy of Jesus Christ’s birth, stop that happy new year greeting.

The more proper and perfect greeting this January 2020 is still “blessed Christmas” or “Merry Christmas” because it is another year in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And here we find the very important and deeper meaning of Christmas: do not ever forget it is about Jesus Christ. Christmas is not about gifts and bonus, it is not about food and merry making, it is not about vacation and long weekends.

Christmas is all about Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became human like us in everything except sin in order to save us and bring us back to the Father in heaven. In his coming, it is not only us who were made holy but even our time that became “his story”.

Indeed, Jesus Christ is the reason of the Season. Let us maximize in greeting “Merry Christmas” and stop its abrupt ending with the coming of the new year that after all, is based on his birth that is why we call it “Anno Domini” (AD) or “year of the Lord”.

Nativity Scene at the National Shrine of the Minor Basilica of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Quezon City. Photo by author, 30 December 2019.

Why stop greeting everyone with a happy new year

Keep greeting everyone with “a blessed Christmas” or a “Merry Christmas” until January 12, last day of our Christmas Season with the Baptism of the Lord.

In the Philippines, you may continue greeting people with Merry Christmas until January 19, Feast of the Sto. Nino which is an extension of the Christmas Season in our country granted by Rome.

Furthermore, for the lazy among you, you can have the excuse of not removing your Christmas decors until February 02, Feast of the Presentation at the Temple because chronologically, that is the precise moment when Christmas Season ends. That is why, the giant Christmas Tree at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square is traditionally removed only on this date.

Also, please stop announcing in churches about the Mass tonight and tomorrow as “New Year’s Mass” because there is no Mass for New Year.

Though our Sacramentary offers prayers for Mass at New Year, the same book stipulates that “this cannot be celebrated on January 1 because it is the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.”

Basic reason why we should not be greeting one another with a happy new year on January 1st is the fact that we celebrated our New Year in the Church during the First Sunday of Advent, that Season of four Sundays when we prepare for Christmas.

Remember, Advent has two aspects: from First Sunday of Advent until December 16, our focus is on the Second Coming of Christ or Parousia at the end of time. Nobody knows when it will be, not even Jesus Christ except the Father in Heaven. Then, from December 17 to 24, we enter the second aspect of Advent which is the focus on the first coming of Jesus when he was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. All the readings on these days center on the events and stories leading to Christ’s birth.

So my dear reader and follower, we start each year in the Church preparing for the coming of the King of kings and we end the year with Solemnity of Christ the King.

To be exact, we start and end each year in Jesus Christ, not in numbers.

Every day of the year is a Christmas in essence, a coming of Jesus Christ.

And for us to continue this beautiful story of Christmas especially on these first 19 days of 2020, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ who is true God and true Man, teaches us the way to keep this spirit of bringing the Savior into the world even beyond December 25 and January 1.

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Luke 2:16-19
Shepherds approaching the Nativity Scene at the National Shrine of the Basilica of Mt. Carmel, Quezon City. Photo by author, 30 December 2019.

Mary to guide us through another year closer to Jesus

A natural reason we have for cutting short our greetings of Merry Christmas to one another is the very close proximity of December 25 with the New Year. Though the civil calendar also came from the Church, in a sense the start of the year has been made holy by its closeness with Christmas.

Rightly then, all the more we find the reason to keep on greeting Merry Christmas than happy new year!

Notice the sudden shift from the holy and transcendent so evident in just a span of one week that personally, I feel we have to promote all the more a stop in this greeting of happy new year at Christmas Season.

How easily we can forget the wonder and awe of Christ’s birth!

See how from our rich liturgical celebrations of Advent and Christmas then suddenly this last seven days of the year, we turn to pagan practices to usher in the new year?

Have we become like the shepherds who came to Jesus only at his brith and never to be mentioned again in the entire account of St. Luke?

What happened?

A shepherd near the Nativity Scene at the National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Mat. Carmel in Quezon City. Photo by author, 30 December 2019.

Mary guides us to the true meaning of Christ’s birth and of the new year that closely comes after Christmas. See how St. Luke narrated the attitude and disposition of Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God:

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

That’s the problem with our Christmas celebrations: after December 25, we go back to “normal lives” which is more of living without Jesus, of getting into the daily grind of life away from Jesus.

Like us, Mary did not know what was really ahead of her with the birth of Jesus: she had no idea about his being lost at the temple, of his being tempted by the devil, of his being rejected and killed by his own people despite his many healings and other miracles.

Mary simply believed in Jesus. And that is why she is blessed according to Elizabeth, because she believed the words spoken to her would be fulfilled.

Mary had nothing certain about her coming year, of her life except the name to be given to her Son, Jesus which means “God is my Savior”.

The same is true with us! We do not know if we will still be together until December or at least in January 2021. We do not know who would get married this year, who would be migrating to another country, who will hit it big time in business or whatever.

Stop consulting fortune tellers because they know nothing about the future! Only the Father of Jesus knows everything that is going to happen. And he had sent us his Son Jesus to make sure that through everything that is going to happen, none of us would ever be lost (Jn.6:39).

Like Mary, we have only one surety and security this 2020: Jesus Christ, our Lord and God living with us!

Let us focus this year in Jesus Christ and his words of salvation.

And that is the challenge of Christmas of the new year 2020: that every day, despite all the good news and bad news we hear and encounter in life, we make that conscious decision to trust in Jesus that good is coming to us for his name means God is my Savior.

Like Mary, let us lose ourselves every day in this wonderful moment of Christmas of looking at the child Jesus inviting us to be caught up in his joy of coming, to fear not of the new year ahead for he has come precisely to be one with us.

May we stay with him, keep his words in our hearts like Mary by reflecting on their meaning trusting and awaiting their fulfillment.

Let us not leave Jesus like the shepherds, though, they were the first to see the Lord at Christmas, they missed his full glory of resurrection because they never went back to him again.

Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

From the inside of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the small doors that require pilgrims to humbly bow first to enter the church and find Jesus. Photo by author, May 2019.

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