Christmas is one of the most important feasts that Christians celebrate.

God loved us tremendously. The world was enslaved by sins. People no longer had peace in their hearts. Evil seemed to have prevail. God wanted all of us to have eternal life, to be freed from the burdens of sins. He sent forth His only son to the world, so that we can be saved.

Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary

God sent the angel Gabriel to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. The angel said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Even though being pregnant before married would lead to condemnation, Mary said yes to God's plan.1

The Birth of Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.2 She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. The magi from the east followed the star to find the newborn king and did him homage.3 The shepherds in that region living in the fields also heard angels' voices from the heaven, to bring them the good news of Jesus' birth.4

Why December 25?

It is not possible to pinpoint the actual date of the birth of Jesus. It was not recorded on the Bible nor the Sacred Tradition.

The Romans used to celebrate pagan festivals around the winter solstice, to celebrate the coming of spring. Christians celebrated Christmas at this time as well. This, among other more recent traditions, led some to believe Christmas has pagan traditions. But Christians were being persecuted because of the fact that they were not worshiping the pagan gods. For a long time they could not openly hold Mass or celebrations.

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25 was in 336AD in the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor).5

What are the origins of some of the Christmas symbols?

Many well known symbols for Christmas that we recognize today were not always used. In fact, some used to be rejected by members of the Church. The Christmas tree is a prime example of this. The Romans decorated their homes with evergreens boughs for the winter solstice, so when the same symbol was used in Christmas, it was looked down upon.

However, let's look at the meaning of the evergreen tree. The evergreen, which lasts green throughout the year, is a symbol of life. It symbolizes the return of life, and thus it is fitting for a symbol of Jesus' coming and His promise of coming again. Pope John Paul II explained this symbol reminds us of the 'tree of life', a representation of Christ.6

Regardless of where these symbols were used in the past, the meaning behind them undoubtedly reflect our faith. Visual symbols aid us in reflection and preparation. However, our modern society is trying to change the meaning of Christmas, one way by changing the meaning behind the symbols. Already, many do not realize Santa Claus is based off of St. Nicholas. The giving of presents is just a holiday tradition. Amidst our consumer culture, Christmas is becoming another event in the year to market. In our society, Christmas' origins is being lost through the distortion of its symbols and traditions.

Consumerism in Christmas

For many, Christmas is a time to buy gifts, not simply because of the want to give their loved one something, but it has become an obligation of sorts. In our culture, it may even seem rude to not give gifts. Companies package everything neatly to make gift giving easier, along with giving discounts as 'a way of giving', when in reality it's simply a way to attract more customers.

As Christians, Christmas is a time where we do receive the greatest gift of all, which is the coming of our Saviour. Our culture sometimes makes us forget that money cannot buy everything. As Jesus once said, you cannot serve both money and God.

Shopping can also be a form of temporary stress reliever for many in our society. People shop to forget the stress in their life, but the joy of buying something is temporary and is never satisfying. While it is okay to buy gifts for others and yourself, we must also keep in mind what Christmas is about and not be swept up in buying for the sake of spending, or as a way to temporary forget our problems.

We prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, but we do so as a family and community. Afterall, love, the greatest gift of all, is something that cannot be bought.

On Christmas Eve, do you want to relive the first Christmas in history, the night when Jesus Christ was born, and experience the love, peace and joy that originated from God?

Do you want to learn more about the Catholic faith?




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