Friday, December 11, 2009

Is Christmas for Children?

Each year I hear at least one person say, "Christmas is for the children." Unfortunately, this view trivializes Christmas. Yes, Christmas is for children, as it is for all of humanity. But Christmas is so much more than presents. St. Paul reminds us that there are some things we outgrow: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways" (1 Corinthians 13:11). Our faith, and our understanding of Christmas, must do the same.

Christmas is the comingling of the divine and the human. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14).

Christmas is Jesus as the fulcrum of salvation history. The advent practice of creating a Jesse Tree reminds us of how God has acted in human history and prepared Israel for the coming of the Savior. The world changed when Jesus came into it. That is why Christians view time in terms of "Before Christ" (BC) and "Anno Domini" (AD - "In the Year of the Lord"). We also see a similar divide regarding Christ's first coming and His anticipated Second Coming.

Christmas is the road to the Cross. There is an interesting Christmas decoration of a nail, to be hung deep within the tree, as a reminder of Jesus' Passion. Imbedded in the joyful mystery of the birth of Jesus is the sorrowful mystery of His crucifixion. We see this in the carol, "We Three Kings," in the verse which reads: Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume/Breathes a life of gathering gloom;/Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,/Sealed in the stone-cold tomb."

Christmas is a Eucharistic revelation. In Hebrew, Bethlehem, means "House of Bread." In Arabic, it means, "House of Meat." Jesus was laid in a "manger" (Luke 2:7), which is a trough where animals eat. The bread that is transformed into flesh is the Eucharist, and it is our food for salvation. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have not life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him" (John 6:53-56).

Is Christmas for children? Yes. Christmas is for helping children to understand that the things of this world cannot satisfy them, but there is One who can.

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