On this day – all over our lonely planet, even the remotest and unexpected locations – people join together to celebrate the birth of a child, the Prince of Peace who is to be our King and Saviour. The birth of Jesus and the focus on the Holy Family during the Christmas Feast allows us to celebrate and ponder once again on these fundamentals and truths; the importance of faith and family. Even non-Christians have to reflect, if only briefly, that they are touched by an event of great magnitude even if they do not comprehend that Christmas Day is a Holy Day – that’s right a holi day and not a vacation. The festive season is a feast of joyful celebration and worship.
Many people complain that they hate Christmas and are longing for it to be over quickly. What they really dislike is the commercialism that brings stress, anguish and most of all debt. The answer to their problem is to concentrate on the religious aspect and the goodwill that emanates from the religious ceremonies; with the sharing with their family and concern for those less fortunate than themselves that generates conviviality. David Cameron’s Christmas message, with its strong reference to Christ, has been attacked by the atheist National Secular Society. Organised aggressive atheism attacks religion, Christianity in particular, but they are like the squeaky wheel that gets the oil with the liberal media only to willing to provide a platform for their minority views. Most atheists, who merely wish to hold to a personal view, are repelled by the actions of these self-appointed spokesmen. A prominent columnist, a professed atheist, has stated that he will be attending a carol service and probably mid-night mass. He does not see any contradiction in this, as he believes that Christianity has the best story of an omnipresent God who sent the Son into this world to save everyone.
Pope Francis, during the last year, has focused on the family and its place in our common home, with his encyclical Laudato Si and the Synods on family issues. CTS has published a booklet that draws together the catechese given at his Wednesday General Audiences since 17th December 2014, starting with Nazareth. The main message of the Encyclical is to reflect on what we are doing to our planet. In the first Wednesday Audience he meditates;
“I have therefore decided to reflect with you, this year, precisely on the family, on this great gift the Lord has made to the world from the very beginning, when he entrusted Adam and Eve with the mission to multiply and fill the earth; that gift that Jesus confirmed and sealed in his Gospel. The nearness of Christmas casts a great light on this mystery. The Incarnation of the Son of God opens a new beginning in the universal history of man and woman. And this new beginning happens within a family, in Nazareth. Jesus was born in a family. He could have come in a spectacular way, or as a warrior, an emperor……. No, no: he is born in a family, in a family. This is important: to perceive in the Nativity, this beautiful scene.” He concludes;
“Since then, each time there is a family that keeps this mystery, even if it were on the periphery of the world, the mystery of the Son of God, the mystery of Jesus who comes to save us, the mystery is at work. He comes to save the world. And this is the great mission of the family: to make room for Jesus who is coming, to welcome Jesus in the family, in each member: children, husband, wife, grandparents…..Jesus is there. Welcome him there, in order that he grows spiritually in the family.”
In a passage from Laudato Si Francis says “Love is the force that will guide us to bring about needed change”. He speaks warmly of God’s love, a love that is pure and unconditional, and he asks us to believe in its power to transform us. This is the force that will guide us and open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters everywhere. Caring for them and their needs, in the love we share as children of God, cannot help but lead to rebuilding the planet so that all may rest safe in God’s creation. God promises to be with us in this work. What have we to fear?