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  A Christian Faith Magazine December 2004, Volume 10, Issue 5  
Rev. Mark Connolly The Real Meaning Of Christmas
Rev. Mark Connolly
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Almost every country in the world has been influenced by the spiritual day that we celebrate this month. Almost every Christmas decoration we see in our neighborhoods come from a different land that celebrates the birthday of Christ in a different way. The Christmas tree comes from Germany. The lights in the window are a carry-over from the candles in the window so common in Ireland. The Christmas stocking comes from England. The Christmas card comes from France. The Christmas crèche comes from St. Francis and Italy. And all of these are helps in helping us enter the spirit of Christmas.

But in order to understand the real meaning of Christmas we must go back to the land of Judea of the Gospels, the town of Bethlehem and see what God's point of view was on this Christmas day. Christmas, in the plan of God, is strictly a spiritual and sacred moment in the birth of the world. And if that feeling of the spiritual and the sacred are to be recaptured on Christmas day, then it means that each one of us must learn what God had in mind in permitting His only Son to come to earth.

The first Christmas found God permitting His only Son to do three things for us. And the same three things must be done by us in our relationship with our families if we are to have the good will of Christmas and Peace in our homes.

The first lesson God did was to allow His Son to give of Himself to us. On that Christmas day, Christ could have said to the wise men, the shepherds, "I am offering myself to you, my personality, my temperament, so that you will have an ideal to imitate". If Christ were to take His Christmas message into the homes of the people today He could say, "look, I expect you to offer a Christ-like personality, a Christ-like temperament in your relationship to your family". This giving of self to others means that you have to master your moods, not let your moods master you. This giving of yourself to each member of your family means that for 24 hours you are going to try to declare a peace treaty in your family. That you speech will be the speech of Christ, that your tenderness to your family will be that of Christ to His family. That your tongue, your actions, will remind those who live with you that you are trying to be a person of 'good will' and attempting to bring peace into your home.

The second lesson that this feast of Christmas should teach us is that God allowed His only Son to be put at our service. Christmas found Christ turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, for His own family. It is a reminder to every person, parents or children, that you have to be at the service of the members of your family. Christmas should find every person practicing extraordinary courtesy, extra considerations, extra care, extra charity, not just for the world at large, but for your own brothers and sisters and your own parents. The Christmas story, for better or worse is relived in your Christmas homes, when you, in the language of Pope John XXIII, recognize that you are the servant of others. Without this concept of service you can never be a giver. You will always be a taker. And the spirit of Christmas is one of giving. Service is the second lesson.


The third lesson is the lesson of sacrifice. It would have been so easy for God to have redeemed the world and saved the world in a totally different way. He didn't have to send a son to suffer. But He did. And in this Act of God, there is a reminder to each one of us for this Christmas. The Christ child suffered because of the lack of comfort on the occasion of His birth. Mary and Joseph suffered for lack of privacy on the occasion of His birth. The wise men in this story had to suffer because of the journey they took. The shepherds had to run the risk of losing their sheep on the occasion of His birth in this Christmas story, God taught us the importance of sacrificing for others. And that spirit of sacrifice is so much a part of the spirit of Christmas. The spirit and the lesson of sacrifice B is there anything that you can personally do for another member of your family without it being known. Oftentimes it is most difficult for most of us to do something for another without letting it be known that we did something. Is it possible that you can find something in your family that you can personally do, that will possibly help, that will be a real sacrifice, for another in your family? This is one way of bringing the peace of Christmas into your homes, this is one way of developing God's good will on earth in your family. Would it ever dawn on anyone reading this to say between now and Christmas day, I am going to make a special visit to the Church to ask God to bring greater peace into my home. Would it ever dawn on any person reading this to say, I am going to ask to have the Christmas Mass said for my family, that all of us become persons of 'good will' in our relationship with others. Sacrifice for others is what Christ did on that First Christmas, without our making sacrifices for others in our family, the spirit of Christmas is never really experienced.

Those are the three lessons God would have us keep in mind as we enter the day of Christmas. Christmas is a giving of ourselves, a giving of our services to our family, a making of a series of sacrifices for our family. December 25th can be for all of us another day. Or it can be a day of 'peace and good will' in our families. The choice is yours. And may God give you the desire to bring peace into your homes by your showing more 'good will' in your relationship with the members of your family.

Did You Know:

Almost every country in the (land of Europe) world has given us a reminder of the meaning of Christmas:

  • The Christmas tree comes from Germany.
  • The lights or candles in the window come from Ireland.
  • The Christmas stocking comes from England.
  • The Christmas crib comes from Italy.
  • The Christmas card comes from France.
  • All of these things help create the mood for Christmas.
  • But the real spirit of Christmas comes from the land of Judea, the town of Bethlehem.

Christmas found God permitting His only Son to do these things:

  1. the gift of Himself
  2. the gift of His service
  3. the gift of His sacrifice

If Christ today were to explain the meaning of His birthday he could say to everyone---
'"I offered on that first Bethlehem the gift of Myself to you — My personality — My temperament — so that you would have an ideal to imitate.

I ask you to do this (to your family) in memory of Me."

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