My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Forgive me in advance because this article will be sterner than my normal messages. As we approach that most joyous event of Christmas, I should be full of excitement, happiness, and eagerness. Instead, I am full of depressing melancholy and trepidation.
We have heard the expression, put the Christ in Christmas. You have heard me explain that the very word Christmas means “Christ’s Mass,” which we understand as Christ’s Liturgy. So when we say, “Merry Christmas” we are wishing the individual a happy time at Christmas Liturgy.
So much preparation goes forward to this event. We have the 40 Days of Fasting as we spiritually ready our souls for the joy we will experience. We deprive ourselves of meats and sweets so that when that sweetest moment comes we can feast in earnest. We have the Royal Hours in which we participate in the story of Christmas, especially from the perspective of Joseph the Betrothed. We have the Liturgy of the Paramon on the Eve of Christmas in which we celebrate the upcoming feast. Finally we the Liturgy of Christmas itself in which we joyously cry out to one another, “Christ is born!” “Glorify Him!”
And yet…. We don’t…. Most years I see perhaps a smattering of people at any of the three principle services of Christmas.
For our own birthdays, many of us are intensely hurt if our family members forget it. It’s one thing for the people at work to forget or even some of our friends, but when our family forgets it stings. The reason I draw this analogy is because the Birth of Christ is meant for we his family. We are co-heirs with Him. He instructed us to call God the Father Father ourselves. It is one thing for those who are not Christian to forget Him. It is one thing for those who nominally call themselves Christians to forget Him. It is an entirely different thing for we, His Family, to forget Him.
We never forget to buy presents for this day. Many of us routinely put up a Christmas Tree and stockings. And yet we do not go to His Nativity Liturgy…
You will say to me, “Fr. Dimitri. God is everywhere, can I not celebrate at home with my family?”
Let me ask you this: How would you feel if you invited your child to Christmas, expecting him to show up, setting a place for him at table, setting your heart to see him and make the moment special… and then he doesn’t come. You ask your son the next day why he didn’t come, and he tells you, “I remembered you with my family.” It isn’t the same, is it? You prepared your home and your son knew about the dinner. He chose to make other plans.
This is precisely what we do to Christ. We ignore him and completely make ourselves hypocrites when we say, “Merry Christmas,” because we have neglected the essence of that greeting.Let us make our Christmas more real this year. Let us come together as a family, a church family. Let us remember the reason for the season, put Christ in Christmas, or whatever we need to tell ourselves to place the appropriate priorities on the Nativity Liturgy. The Christmas meal will still be there. Your relatives will understand. Your children will gain the perspective that this is far more important than the presents they receive.
Every year we see the movies or plays of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It is the consummate tale of such priorities. It is common enough that I needn’t tell you the story, but after Scrooge awakes on Christmas day, we are told he went to Church and then to his nephew’s party. The finale of the story reads “…and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
I remain your servant in Christ, Fr. Dimitri Tobias, Proistamenos