December 2006 - Volume 11, Issue 5

Spiritual Christmas

By Rev. Mark Connolly

Image of the three wisemenI would like to share a few thoughts with you in making your Christmas more sacred and more spiritual. One of the secrets in making Christmas more spiritual is recognizing what is essential and what is accidental during this season of Christmas. When you go back into the history of the first Christmas, all of us grew up hearing about the wise men, the shepherds and the crib at Bethlehem. No matter how you look upon these things that have activated your imagination, they are accidental to the lesson of Christmas. Advent is a season that reminds us of the coming of Christ into the world and into our lives. Advent is a season reminding us that this same Christ child from the crib at Bethlehem died for us on the cross at Calvary. He came to bring his love to us so that you and I will have an everlasting home with Him in Heaven. That is the essential meaning of the story of Christmas. But what has happened to us in our culture is that the essentials oftentimes are forgotten. Please don't misunderstand me. There is no doubt there is a certain degree of joy all of us get at Christmas time in buying gifts, family reunions and sending Christmas cards and singing Christmas carols. All of those are wonderful because they help us live the principles of Christ when he said, "as long as you did it for these My brethren you did it for Me". What we have to keep in mind concerning Christmas is that we have to love our neighbor the way Christ loved us. Love is the essential component in the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

We can never forget that when you add up all the dysfunctional families in our country, all the divorced families in our county and the separated families in our country, you have to keep in mind that Christmas is not a happy time for many of the families that are in our own neighborhood. That is why this component of love, this quality of love has to be shown by you not only in the cheerful greeting of a merry Christmas, but in whatever acts of charity, compassion or kindness you can bring into their lives.

Somewhere during the last century, the culture we live in has taken over many of the spiritual aspects of Christmas. There are very few malls or stores that you can go into that will remind you of the birth of Christ and the spirituality that he brought on the first Christmas day. Arnold Toynbee once said, "the greatest day in the history of mankind is the birth of Jesus Christ, because it brought a whole new series of values and principles into a society that was corrupt and violent.

So that each one of us will make this Advent season a time of spirituality I would like to share with you two thoughts that if implemented can make Christmas a most spiritual one for you and your family.

The first is the quality of time. Each one of us between now and Christmas day, get 1440 minutes a day. During that time it should become one of prayer and mediation whether in our home or driving a car, on our way to or from work, somewhere we have got to stop and refuse to allow the ways of our culture to control our mind in such a way that we forget the essential story, the birth of Christ and the love that be brought into this world. Each one of us has an obligation in the teachings of Jesus Christ to love our neighbor. Each one of us, no matter how busy we are, can take five or ten minutes per day, just to take time to think of what this spiritual event meant in the history of the world and what it should mean in your life. If we don't develop a sense of prayer, if we don't have a sense of meditation, we don't make it a season of prayerfulness then our culture has won and the meaning of Christmas has lost.

Image of the baby JesusThe next quality that should be implemented during this season of Advent is the quality of love manifested during that first Christmas. Christ came to earth as a child. All during His public ministry, His life was spent in a culture that was corrupt, in a society that was violent. Christ spent his whole ministry spreading Christ-like love in communities that had never understood the meaning of true love. This same Christ gave peace to the woman taken in adultery, gave encouragement to the prodigal son, gave paradise to the good thief, all signs of His way of showing love to everybody.

Yon have been hearing the Gospel, "when I was hungry you gave me to eat; when I was thirsty, you gave me a drink; when I was naked you, clothe me; when I was in prison, you visited me". Those are the teachings of love that Christ implemented during this violent society and he expects us to implement in the same violent culture in which we live.

If you go back in history from 1846 in our country you may recall the Franciscan Fathers in California named so many beautiful areas after favorite saints. Saint Francis for San Francisco, St. Monica for Santa Monica, Los Angeles for the Angel's. Another one that they named was a little area and it was so beautiful that they named it after Holy Wood of the Cross. The holy wood of the cross that now is known to us as Hollywood. You can see how the meaning of the birthday of Jesus Christ has been to lost over the years. If we are going to have a spiritual Christmas, we have to be able to differentiate between that which is essential with our relationship with God and that which is accidental. If we learn, through the proper use of time and prayer, the story of Christmas, then each one of us will enable our Christmas to be happy and we will enable those in our family to experience the love of Christ in a personal fashion.

Photo of a red bow and ribbon