by MSGR. THOMAS DUFFY
In a few weeks, many Christians will begin their annual celebration of the feast of Christmas on Dec. 25. To help us prepare for and to celebrate this feast, we would do well, as we have often been encouraged, to seriously think of “the reason for the season.”
Of course, we realized that many people will be surprised that anyone is preparing for Christmas, not because they have never heard of Christmas or have long ago decided it wasn’t worth celebrating, but because they think that the Christmas season officially runs from the Friday after Thanksgiving until Dec. 25. After all, they would argue that’s when most of the Christmas decorations are prominently displayed and when most, if not all, Christmas parties take place.
What is the reason for the season? Some might argue that the answer is Jesus since it is his birthday. It seems to me that we could argue that the reason for the season is in fact us, all of us human beings. Why? Because the reason that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem and the reason he died on Calvary was for us. After his birth, according to the Scriptures, the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds who were watching their flock. The angel told them not to be afraid “for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is messiah and Lord.” Then a multitude of angels sang “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Yes, the reason for the season is us. The savior comes to bring his peace to all on whom his favor rests. We do not have to be afraid to look upon the face of God made man. We can do this, and we will not die, for in his face we see our faces. We do not have to be afraid of anyone for when we look into their faces, we, in faith, should see the face of God. Jesus, whose birth we celebrate, taught that whatever we do or fail to do to others, particularly our enemies (who else do we judge as the least among us), we do or fail to do to him.
As we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the prince of peace, we, as a nation, are in the midst of another undeclared war. According to the polls, most think what we are doing is a moral response to the killing that took place in the United States on Sept. 11. Modern warfare, with all of its smart weapons and the restrictions placed on the news media in the name of national security, makes it difficult to look into the faces of those killed by our nation and thus makes it easier for us not to see them as our brothers and sisters.
The Catholic bishops of the world warned at the Second Vatican Council on Dec. 7, 1965, that people “of this generation should realize that they will have to render an account of their warlike behavior.” In 1963, Pope John XXIII wrote in his letter entitled “Peace on earth,” “in this age of ours, which prides itself on its atomic power, it is irrational to think that war is a proper way to obtain justice for violated rights.”
What is the reason for the Christmas season if it is not all of us? No, not just us in the United States but us human beings all over the world.
Msgr. Thomas R. Duffy is pastor of St. Michael Church in Garden City and dean of the Pee Dee Deanery.