Yes, the pagans did celebrate a solstice feast called Yule. It’s in the dark of winter when things are dreary and we need something to lighten our spirits, otherwise we’d go nuts.
Where are we in 2013? Sure, for decades Christmas has increasingly been secularized, discriminated against, and abused for commercial gain. But as a whole, we still celebrate a feast on December 25t.h. Let’s baptize it!
Yes, it is one of the only times in the year the church will be filled with the CEO Catholics (Christmas and Easter Only) and they probably have not picked up on the new translation of the Roman missal. But they are there. They know that this day is important. We all still long for the light in the darkness. We all need to know the reality of God incarnate. We need to know that he is with us, that we are loved intimately by him, and that he will not leave us to die. So what do we do?
I say we make like Pope Francis and lead with joy. Joy! St. Paul is right again: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.” The world needs something to celebrate, someone actually. Christ must become incarnate in us if people are to know the joy of being in right relationship with God.
Here are a few easy steps to follow as a “Christmastime evangelist.” You don’t have to be a theologian of Pope Benedictine proportions to do this. As St. Augustine points out, it is not our own power or the words we say that will change someone. So here we go:
Step 1: Say a prayer for their Good
Step 2: Befriend them
Step 3: Hang out with said friend and become better friends regardless of differences
Step 4: Say a prayer for their Good
Step 5: Hang out some more and become better friends regardless of differences
Step 6: Extend an invitation (Mass, holy hour, Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours,… take your pick)
Step 7: Say a prayer for their Good
Step 8: Repeat steps 3-7 and be patient
It is very easy to be snobbish and crabby. It is very easy to compare ourselves to others; our culture feeds off of this. It’s also easy to act like it’s OK that 70% of Catholics in the U.S. are at Mass two times a year. We allowed that to happen for the sake of getting along and to avoid being inconvenient. On both sides of the equation we are dulling the joy of the reality of God incarnate. The answer isn’t found in between these two things like a balance of polite smiles and snarky comments. It’s found in joy. Unbounded, unassuming, unselfish, unsurpassable, unexpected, unpredictable, unafraid, undeniable joy!