This year again, the Philadelphia suburbs have been attired in Christmas decorations accompanied by brilliant lights. But, it seems that in many places the nativity itself, the essential symbol of the season, less brilliantly has accompanied the brighter lights. This circumstance is symbolic of the fact that our Lord was born in “mean estate” among the glitter of the world. He lay in a manger attended by his young mother and astounded father; the lowly shepherds; the animals, who knew their master (Isaiah 1); and the wise men from the east, testifying both to His fulfillment of Scriptures and His humble origins.
Here and there in the midst of notable figures like Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Mickey Mouse, the Grinch, and other players in the Christmas festival we discover the Christ Child. It seems that the winter festival has come to outshine the Christmas observance. In the year 336 A.D., December 25 became set as the celebration of Christ’s birth in replacement of the pagan festival dies solis invicti nati (the day of the birth of the unconquered sun), the day of the resurgence of the sun after the gradual shortening of daytime between the fall equinox and the winter solstice.
It seems that the pagan holiday has pre-empted the Christian feast as seen in the decorations on the front lawns of many Americans. This situation may be one of many signs of the secularization of America. Nonetheless, the nativity is also found on the front lawns of America; congregations throughout the land sing with joy hymns exalting the newborn Savior; and Merry Christmas can be heard despite efforts to change the greeting to Happy Holidays. The X-mas of Christmas is a testimony to the underlying reason for our celebration. The X in X-mas represents the Greek letter chi which is the first letter in Christ’s name in Greek.
In our witness during these twelve days of Christmas, let us be intent in sharing Christ as opportunities open up to us so that those who sit in darkness may see the great light of Jesus Christ that shines in the drear winter. In this way those who have no hope can know deliverance from despair and sing with the Church on earth and the angels and saints in heaven the praises of the Child of Bethlehem.
Michael G. Tavella