We Are Blessed to Know the True Wonder of Christmas

Christmas Nativity Scene
Image from the National Blue Army Shrine’s Christmas Festival of Lights

Secularism Cannot Replace Christmas

The day after Thanksgiving, I returned from Portugal. My wife and I decided to stay a few extra days after our Fatima pilgrimage group departed to spend the holiday with some friends. It was not a holiday there, but something jumped out at me; advertising for Black Friday was everywhere. This export of American marketing misses the mark of the holiday just past and the “holiday” season just beginning. 

No one is more of a free enterprise supporter than me. Free market capitalism guided by faith has been the backbone of Western society. My father owned and operated a gift and hobby store. My wife had a Polish deli and specialty shop. December was without question the busiest time of the year in both cases. I would always clear my schedule the last week to help her with the final rush of those who wanted a traditional meal on the table for Christmas. Not to sound ungrateful, I was always the recipient of that special toy my dad would have under the tree and the very special dinner my wife and mother-in-law would prepare for the holiday.

The point that unfortunately is missed in this material world, which finds atheism and “nones” on par with Christianity, is that secularism cannot replace the true purpose of this time, nor can it produce the wonder and beauty that is Christmas.

We have, in fact, not yet entered the Christmas season. That begins on December 24th as the bells ring out the commencement of midnight Mass. From that day, while people are tearing down their decorations with the belief that the season is over, we who follow the teachings of Christ begin our time of celebration. Like Holy Simeon, we look to heaven and glorify God in the fulfillment of His promise.

Advent Begins the New Liturgical Year

On December 6th, we celebrated the holy remembrance of St. Nicholas. His generosity to the poor is certainly the model for Santa Claus, but the secular world rarely credits this holy man for the true charity that is the foundation of the gift-giving season. Advent is the season that truly defines the month of December. It is not only the start of the new Liturgical year for the Church, but the four-week time of preparation for the event of the Nativity, the circumstances of which, in the humble surroundings of a stable, are contrary to the material dominance of present-day commercialism. Amidst the noise and confusion of the shopping season, there must be a sense of penitentiary preparation for the arrival of the Savior. Advent derives from the Latin adventus, “a coming, approach, arrival;” in Church Latin, “the coming of the Savior.” We await the Savior who arrives not in regal splendor, but in simple poverty.

Fatima and Christmas

The spirituality of Fatima asks us to focus on the quiet simplicity of the Nativity where the reason for the season is found. Throughout the long history of the Church, the greatest messages have come through those with few material goods. Who can define true wealth? As we pursue economic gain and the things that result from it, we can miss the true wealth found with those who possess few material goods. While those of means who occupied the rooms of the inn in Bethlehem relaxed in their beds, little did they know that the event which many generations waited for was being fulfilled in a stable below.

Throughout Advent, the Church walks us through this time of preparation with the goal of leading us to the holy moment when the Savior is born. Fasting and prayer is called for as we approach the arrival of the Messiah. 

Perhaps we should put ourselves in the mind of Mary, who by reason of her purity and freedom from sin, understood the mission she was undertaking. But like St. Joseph, she was uncertain of what they would encounter on that journey to Bethlehem. Both came to understand the value of the simplicity of the Nativity, total trust in the plan of God and a belief that He would provide for everything. Soon after the birth they had to flee to Egypt to escape the death sentence imposed by Herod on the Child. Imagine the pain of knowing that many children were being slaughtered while they moved to safety. The shedding of the blood of the Holy Innocence also allowed in the Divine plan most certainly weighed heavily on them. Certainly, none of the circumstances of the Nativity were foreknown as they went forth.

Following in the Holy Family’s Footsteps

As sinful people, we must turn to the Holy Family to show us the way of perfection, putting aside our past transgressions by accepting and making good the future. By following His plan for us we acknowledge the primacy of His will and realize that it is the road to salvation laid out for us individually. We each have a path which differs from the one laid out for others. God’s plan is bigger than we can imagine; even bigger than what Mary envisioned.

As we approach the Christmas season, perhaps we can focus on the days from Christmas Eve until February 2nd, the feast of Candlemas, with a commitment to embrace the season in the spirit of the newborn King. For all who are engaged heavily in commerce during this busy time, I hope that you can enjoy and find peace in the Christmas season when it arrives later this week.

I want to wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

God bless you and Mary keep you in her Immaculate Heart. 

David M. Carollo is the Executive Director of the World Apostolate of Fatima USA/National Blue Army Shrine. He wrote this for his Voice of Fatima column.

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