How often do you contemplate the night sky? Especially those clear, cold nights when the stars show so brightly we wish we could reach up and touch them. The city lights tend to obscure the beauty, but it is still there to see. It is a wonder, especially on these early evenings of darkness and late sunrises.
There are many explanations as to why December 25th was chosen as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Look anywhere on the internet, and you get all the reasons, included among them the early Christian counter to the pagan celebrations of the period. An explanation I heard many years ago was that, since the Winter Solstice occurs late in December, and we have the shortest day and the longest night, this is why December 25th was chosen. We speak of Jesus as the Light of the World, the light that pierces the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome the light. Therefore, Jesus is born into the darkest time of the year to bring us his light. This time of year brings, ever so slightly, every 24 hours, a bit more light guiding us to Spring. We mirror this imagery of light when we carry the Paschal candle into our churches at the Easter Vigil, under the cloak of darkness, while proclaiming, “Christ Our Light! Thanks be to God!”
Malachi speaks today of the coming of the Lord, the one who will purify us as the fire of the refiner of gold or silver. Our Lord prepares our hearts and souls to be purified through his love and his commands to love God and one another. We are refined by his teachings to give him the acceptable and due sacrifice – the good we do for one another, not just during the Christmas season, but all year long. We are refined by enduring, with grace, the encumbering trials of life, to overcome them with faith. “Who can stand when he appears?” We can. We can because we live with and through Christ each day, and are willing to undergo the refining process to reach the goal for which we are created — unity with God.
The Christmas Season is often called the season of light. Drive through the city streets and see all the lights: white, blue, red, green, gold. Trees lit up and porches decorated. It is a beautiful sight to behold and we should enjoy it all. But let these be a reminder that, even as these lights uplift us and bring us joy, the true Celebration of Light is the Light of Jesus in our hearts. The “reason for the season,” remember? In spite of the efforts of today’s culture to make Christmas a purely secular celebration, we cannot forget that amid all the partying, feasting, gift-giving and receiving, that the greatest of these gifts is Christ himself. The Son of God comes to earth to guide us, one day, to our true home.
“Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.”
God Bless you and your families this Christmas, and may the New Year ring in joy and peace!
Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.