A year can certainly get away from you if you’re not paying attention. I was a bit surprised to find out that my last post was all the way back in January! Life gets busy sometimes, I suppose. Today I would like to share with you a brief meditation on the true meaning of Christmas that I prepared for an event with our school children today. I hope it brings light to your heart as we finalize our preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth.
In just four short days, we celebrate something amazing. We celebrate Christmas, the day that Jesus was born. With all of the music that we listen to, and with all of the shopping trips that we make, and with all the baking and cooking that we do, we can get lost and forget what the true meaning of Christmas is.
Christmas, you see, is about a little boy who was born nearly two thousand years ago. This little boy was quite special: he was no ordinary boy. This boy was born so that he could save all of us. Some of us might wonder: how can a little boy save me? And do I really need saving anyway?
The answer is yes! Of course we need saving! Sadness and sickness and sinfulness are all things that shouldn’t exist, but they do. And we need someone to help us get through these hard things so that we can be happy. And how does a little boy born two thousand years ago help us to be happy?
Like I said, he is no ordinary boy. This little boy was also the Son of God, is sometimes called Emmanuel, which means God-with-us. When this little boy was born, God came out of Heaven to visit us in our home on earth. This little boy grew up to be a strong man, and he showed us how to live so that we can be happy forever. He took all those bad things, and he showed us that they can’t control us. He showed us that we can love him and love God anyway, and that if we do that we can go to Heaven.
On Christmas, we remember that this little boy was born. And we celebrate the great gifts he gave us by giving each other gifts, by spending time with our families, and by praying and thanking that little boy for all that he did for us. The true meaning of Christmas is this: On this day, Jesus was born! Let us rejoice!
This year, I would like to share with you some texts that are ripe for meditation on the birth of Christ. On Christmas morning, I took a video of the sunrise for your viewing pleasure, and I’ve put a bit of music in the background to keep it exciting.
Texts for Christmas meditation
Magnificat and antiphon from Christmas Evening Prayer I
Prologue from the Gospel of John (Christmas Day Gospel)
Luke 2:1-20 (Knox Translation)
Selection from Pope St. Leo’s Christmas Sermon (Office of Readings on Christmas Day)
The last few years have been very contentious in our country. On this Thanksgiving Day, let us strive to look past what separates us. I find President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation (full text below), given in the midst of the bloodiest and most divided time in our national history, a fitting reminder and reflection of what we must do this day:
I recommend […] that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it
Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation of Thanksgiving (1863)
The preface at Mass today similarly reminds us of the great gifts our Heavenly Father has given to us, and the great responsibility we have as a result of these gifts.
You have entrusted to us the great gift of freedom, a gift that calls forth responsibility and commitment to the truth that all have a fundamental dignity before you. In Jesus, through his Death and Resurrection, we find our ultimate redemption, freedom from sin, and every blessing.
Preface for Thanksgiving Day (USA)
Today, let us thank God for his great gifts to all of us: the gift of our lives, the gift of our redemption, the gift of our families, friends, and loved ones, the gift of our prosperity as a people sojourning to God. Let us offer him praise in Thanksgiving of the many blessings he gives us daily which we do not perceive, for the sun and the moon and the stars, for the air we breath, for the bountiful harvest of the earth. As we ponder these gifts, let us offer penance for where we have wronged our neighbor and renew our efforts pray for the peace and prosperity of our entire human family.
Proclamation of Thanksgiving
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth. ABRAHAM LINCOLN