Go to Spirituality for Today Home Page
  A Christian Faith Magazine December 2002, Volume 8, Issue 5  
Rev. Mark Connolly
Print Friendly Page

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make in life is not to know what is accidental to life as compared to what is essential. One of the biggest mistakes Catholics can make during this season of Christmas is to fail to learn what is accidental to the story of Christmas and what is essential to the story of Christmas. I would like to share some thoughts with you on what is essential to the meaning of Christmas. No one questions the value of Christmas cards, Christmas celebrations, Christmas carols. They add to the festivity of the day. They are part of our culture. But truthfully they are accidental to the meaning that Christ wanted us to learn from that first Christ day.

This day should remind us of a child who became an adult with a message and a mission. No other religious leader has had a message and mission that has had such an impact on Western Civilization. He was born in a stable, sought shelter in an inn, never wrote a book, never preached a sermon, and in the last 2000 years has had thousands of books written about him. A man who never had a college education, a man who never traveled any further than a hundred miles from his place of birth. The most popular and most well-known religious leader of the last 2000 years. A man with a message. A man with a mission.

Today, this Christmas day is our way of showing reverence for his mission and respect for his message. He revolutionized the world by his nonviolence and was a subject and victim of violence himself. He preached love and was crucified.


What are some of the lessons we take from this first Christmas and apply to our Christmas day. First, the lesson that Christ showed of solidarity with the poor. He didn't come to a group of Rhodes Scholars or intellectual professors. He came to the uneducated, the illiterate, the shepherds, the outcasts. And He spent His whole life working with them to help them prepare themselves for the world that He promised them, namely Christmas in eternity. This same Christ, if he appeared on a world scene today, would visit and help the homeless you see in the big cities, the mentally sick that are all throughout the society we live in. We can never forget that it was this same Christ who said, the poor you will always have with you. This is a reminder that each one has to help the sick, to help the homeless, to be forgetful of self, to see Christ in each other.

Christ's purpose on this earth was not to remove the problems of poverty and sickness and unemployment that millions have experienced. His purpose was to prepare them for a place in the kingdom of God. And all they had to do was share the love of Christ that they had received with others who had not received any of the love of Christ. That is why when you read the life work of Mother Theresa, it is simply a mission of love, a mission of compassion. And that has to be what each one of us must learn if Christmas is to have the significance that Christ wanted it to have on that First Christmas day.

Sun Through Clouds

In addition to solidarity with the poor, the second theme that must be kept in mind is that Christmas is a foretaste of the Christmas we will one day spend with God in eternity. It was this same Christ Child who, when he became an adult, let his message be known. He said, I did not come to earth from Heaven to call you my servants but to call you my friends. It was this same Christ child who, when he became an adult said, I will not leave you orphans, I will be with you always and I will give you an abundant life. When you translate all those teachings from Christ into our times it simply means something like this: to the people who have been living in poverty, I will enrich you; to the people who have been living in suffering it means come to me all you who labor and I will refresh you; to the people who have been serving God it means one day you shall be with me in paradise. Christmas, in the language of Christ, means that every unanswered question, every unsolved problem will be solved in eternity. Christmas means in eternity that the people who have never had a break in this world will experience the tenderness of God. Christmas in eternity means that the people who lost their lives on Flight 103, in the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon, in the field in Pennsylvania, will say what Christ has already said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Three Wise Men

This Christmas message of Christ should remind us not to mix the accidentals of the story with the essentials of the message. If you go back into the history of Christmas you will find that the first feast day of the Nativity was celebrated in the fourth Century. If you dig a little deeper into history, you will find that the word Christmas itself only came into usage in or around the 9th Century. These are accidents. The essential message of Christmas never changes. Christmas is a sign of God's love for us and that he wants to share that love with us in eternity, not just for one Christmas or many Christmases, but for eternity. If we don't learn these lessons on earth, we miss the meaning of Christmas. If we do learn them, Christmas will be more meaningful, Christmas will be more spiritual and Christmas will be for each one of us what Christ had in mind centuries ago when the angel said, "Fear not, be of good heart, I bring good news to you of a child who is born today."

A Christmas Blessing

God grant you the light in Christmas,
which is faith;
the warmth of Christmas,
which is purity;
the righteousness of Christmas,
which is justice;
the belief in Christmas,
which is truth;
the all of Christmas,
which is Christ.

- Wilda English


back to top | home

copyright 2005 Clemons Productions Inc. and the Diocese of Bridgeport