Celebrating Christmastide: A Grace Not Easily Exhausted

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I always make it a point to delay as long as possible before I begin using the greeting ‘Merry Christmas’- not as a concession to our politically correct climate - but rather because Advent is a time of anticipation of Christmas, a distinct season to itself. While I hesitate to use those precious words during Advent, when Christmas finally does arrive, I try to use it without reservation right up until the end of the season. I am always amazed how this greeting elicits perplexed looks from people even the day after Christmas, not to mention two weeks into the season of grace.

Although our current culture has no patience for seasons and instinctively runs ahead to the next thing, the Church almost never thinks in terms of isolated days but rather in terms of season, attending to the time needed to appropriate the central mysteries of our Faith. So it is with Christmas. The greater the commemoration, the greater the need to savor and sit with it. Since Christmas is about that central truth of our Faith, God-become-man in Jesus Christ, there is a great reason not to rush onto the next thing.

Perhaps our ability to be content with the simple things this Christmas season: time spent with family, old and new Christmas traditions, gifts given and received, laughter as stories are told, mourning family members who are not with us to celebrate this year, favorite family recipes and all the rest could be seen as a measure of our gratitude to God for Jesus Christ, our Infant Savior, discovered once again wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger— the same gift we were given last year, the perennial gift of God to the world!

Depending on when you are reading this article, the Church’s commemoration of the Birth of Our Lord may or may not have begun. With Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year there is not much time to savor the graces of the fourth Sunday of Advent. The good news is we leave one season, Advent, to enter upon another season, Christmastide. I will make a challenge to each of you. Try to celebrate Christmastide in its entirety. Count the days, there are even more than the twelve famously commemorated in song. This year, the final day of Christmas is Monday, January 8th, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Try being content to leave your decorations up until then - it may seem belabored , but our culture could use a reminder of the reason for the season.

Looking for a way to celebrate the Christmas season? There are several things coming up at our various campuses. A few of our parish families have children who attend Chesterton Academy in Edina. I have been a friend and supporter of this school since their founding a decade ago and was even able to help host a few groups of students in Rome for their semi-regular pilgrimages with juniors and seniors. One of the hallmarks of this recently established Catholic high school is a love of sacred music. In the last couple of years some of the recent graduates from Chesterton Academy formed a small ensemble called Flos Florum that beautifully sings sacred choral music. I have heard them on a couple of occasions and am delighted that they took me up on an invitation to sing at Holy Cross to give our parish an opportunity to celebrate the Christmas Octave with some musical meditations on the Incarnation and Our Blessed Mother. The concert will take place in Holy Cross church on Wednesday evening, December 27th . All are invited. Admission is free with an opportunity to give a free will donation. I can’t recommend it enough as a chance to savor the season!

On behalf of my brother priests (and deacon), our parish staff and our whole parish community, I wish you and your loved ones a very blessed celebration of Christmas! Thank you for choosing to celebrate with us. May the Lord bless and strengthen you in faith, hope and love by His coming more fully to you this Christmastide

-Fr. Howe