December 13, 2013

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Christmas, anyone? Let’s truly enjoy this season of generous love

Cynthia DewesThe local U.S. post office recently sent out a brochure with pictures of the Christmas stamps available this year. They were celebrations of the feasts of Hanukkah, Kwanza and, as far as I could tell, a gingerbread house. Although religious Christmas stamps are available for those who ask, no advertised Christmas stamp had any connection to Christmas. Except that they called them holiday stamps.

Get that? “Holiday,” as in “holy day”? This struck me as a sign of the times when up is down and no sense is common. Does anyone but me think it’s odd that this season of celebration, established to honor the birth of Christ, a holy day, does not appear?

At least some of the qualities that make Christ’s birth such an important event are not missing in the general holiday. Things like generosity, peace among peoples and nations, demonstrating love for others. But what is in fact a powerful story of God’s loving gift of human salvation has been watered down into a touch-feely, sentimental occasion. At least it doesn’t advocate bad things.

Except for commercialism, of course. Those whose main goal in life is gaining money have jumped on the generosity/love/guilt angle big time. To the horror of many, Christmas shopping ads appeared even before Halloween. There was even a TV commercial showing someone opening the door for trick-or-treaters, only to find Christmas carolers singing outside on the front step.

Thanksgiving is no longer sacred, either. Apparently Black Friday, the huge Christmas shopping day after Thanksgiving, was not enough for the money grubbers. This year, stores opened on Thanksgiving Day, usurping the traditional Norman Rockwell version featuring families visiting, eating together and giving thanks. Instead, they were encouraged to stand in long lines so they could buy gigantic TVs and other valuable items for bargain prices.

But enough of this crabbing. It’s just a fact that we live in a society whose values seem to have turned upside down over time. It’s also a fact that we can’t personally do a whole lot to change this. So, as much as we’d love to rail against the evils of money and selfishness and so on, we’d do better to deal with them instead.

The Catholic Church, flawed as some of its members may be, is a bulwark of guidance in this effort. For that reason, it is often criticized as being old-fashioned, out of touch with modern times, or restrictive of people’s rights. Nevertheless, the Church stick up for the truth.

The Church supports pro-life from conception to natural death, social justice and respect for the rights of others. It offers sacraments to help us persevere, chiefly the eucharistic bread of life. Others encourage life-giving love in marriage between a man and a woman, and present the opportunity to repent of the mistakes we all make.

So we who believe that Christmas is one of the greatest celebrations of inherent truth can continue to celebrate with joy. We can put up with the schmaltz, the Christmas mice, the distasteful songs and movies, while at the same time teaching our kids and grandkids what Christmas is really all about.

God has given us a priceless gift in Christmas, the chance to erase our human sins and see God as he is in all his glory. That’s when all the questions will be answered.

And maybe that’s when we’ll finally know the reason behind a red-nosed reindeer, or why the Grinch, whatever that is, stole Christmas.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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