The Christmas season has once again come to the face of the earth, reminding us of the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born in the stable of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. This celebration of the Mystery of the Incarnation is preceded for Catholics, with the Season of Advent in which we listened to the voices of the prophets, most notably that of Isaiah and John the Baptist. For the secular world, Christmas is preceded by parades, a busy shopping season, reindeers and Santa… These things have become ever so familiar to the festive “Holiday Season.”
However, this year’s Christmas season, just like any other event in 2020 have all become “toned-down” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The public celebration of Masses has been suspended in many areas throughout the world, including where I live in the Central Region of the Archdiocese of Toronto, parades and festivities moved online, family Zoom calls in place of the warm hearty Christmas dinners, gifts exchanged with e-Gift Cards in lieu of the classic wrapped gifts. I understand that these times are difficult for many, particularly those who live alone, and more so for those who face the harsh realities of this pandemic: family member(s) hospitalized, loss of jobs, unstable financial situations… the list is endless.
Yet, even in the midst of all this, Christmas is still present because Christ, who is the Emmanuel is “God is with us,” (cf. Is 7:14, Mt 1:23). Even if these public events and traditions have been placed on hold for the year, it does not deprive us of the true meaning Christmas which directs us to the manger of Bethlehem in which we are called to make a heartfelt encounter with the Baby Jesus who is our only hope (cf. Tit 2:11-14). The silence that we experience this year calls us to return to this very core of what the Christmas season is. It is not the festivities that defines the Christmas season, but it is the Incarnation of Christ, and God’s great love for us.
Even in these times that we come to truly understand that Christ is still present among His people. To name a few groups who help keep our society running, we see it in our doctors and nurses, the garbage collectors, the mail carriers. For those who keep the Church running, we see it in the lay people, particularly those who volunteer their time to sanitize the churches, for parish leaders who continue their ministries online, to the tireless deacons and priests who assist at or offer the celebration of Mass and the sacraments, even when public Masses are temporarily suspended. We also see action within the leadership of the Church, particularly with our bishops and Cardinals of the Roman Curia, and evidently in Pope Francis who have constantly assisted spiritually and financially to those in need of assistance. These are just a very few groups who have kept the world running but there are many, many more that would take a long time to list out. These facets of mercy that continue to be put into action, and in a sense, making the Merciful Face of God present on earth.
We must lift our heads high because we know “God is with us.” When we live with the realization that “God is with us,” there is nothing we should be afraid of because those who put Emmanuel at the centre of their lives allow God to work through them, and even darkness cannot conquer. Rest assured, these times of trials and tribulations will pass but we must work together as brothers and sisters in order to get past these times. We will return to a physical sense of community, we will again gather physically at the Lord’s table, but for now and for always, charity is the too priority to keep everyone safe and by abiding by health protocols, we are living out the Greatest Commandment that Jesus gave us at the Last Supper, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34)
I wish everyone a holy Christmas and a blessed New Year, and remember to “Keep Christ in Christmas.”