Several years ago I published the following column. It has always been one of my favorites. Since we will be traveling during Christmas week I have decided to lighten my load by republishing it.
Christmas Day, December 25, is the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is of little consequence as to whether His birth occurred precisely on December 25th because it is the totality of His life, His teachings, and His sacrifice that form the foundation of Christianity.
It’s Christmas Day and we remain thankful for the blessings of this past year. It is a different Christmas this year because our children and their families have begun their own traditions. Thankfully, we are a part of those traditions and we will travel to be with them for this Christmas season. And the season is made that much better in the presence of our grandchildren as they celebrate the unbounded joy of Christmas.
For our family Christmas always begins with Mass. It is one of those special days in the Catholic Church when the church is overflowing as Catholics and visitors join in celebrating the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago.
The four weeks preceding Christmas are known as Advent in the church. It is a time during which we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ and it is a time best described as a season of hope. Our belief is that God became man in fulfillment of His promises in the Old Testament. That birth brings with it the hope that He will come again to redeem our souls. It is the belief in God and the hope for an eternal life with Him that provides purpose. A purpose that extends beyond the acquisition of comfort and material gains. A purpose that does not end with the death of one’s body.
It is in marked contrast to a secular world where hope is finite, where purpose is confined to the needs of an intellectual being – comfort, wealth, power and knowledge. Where the concepts of a prime mover, a perfect being and an eternal life are not only foreign but ridiculed. A world in which trust and expectation is placed solely in man –an imperfect being. A world in which we are regularly disappointed at best and enslaved at worst by those in power and those who seek power.
For many in the secular world, government has become their religion – a belief that government is and should be the solution to all problems. But governments have been created by men and by definition inherit the imperfections of man. Those who place their hopes and expectations in government are most often disappointed. Even in America where we enjoy the best form of government we find that the approval ratings of the president and Congress at historical lows and fully two-thirds of our citizens believing that we are headed in the wrong direction. Poverty and unemployment have grown and remain stubbornly high. Educational achievement continues to decline. And opportunity continues to be stifled in deference to temporal social policy.
This is not meant as a criticism of the efforts of men – many are well meaning, however flawed. But more and more, politicians seek office primarily to gain power and, thereafter, use government to maintain that power. Power has become the end and the means to the end. The first and last consideration for every decision is how it will impact the acquisition or preservation of power. In pursuit of that power, promises are made – promises that cannot and never were intended to be kept. But those promises build expectations and those expectations are rarely met thus creating the low approval ratings of those in government.
But the most disappointing aspect of the secularists’ vision of the world is that this is all there is. It is a world in which expectations are finite, suffering is inevitable and redemption is unknown. It is a world tightly constricted into the life span of each of us. It is a life that no matter how virtuously led ends with death. In the end it is a life with limited and temporal hope.
In contrast, our hope is rooted in a spiritual world, a belief in an eternal life and a hope that in the end we will be reunited with The Perfect Being. That hope is not confined to our personal destiny. It extends to all of mankind. As G.K. Chesterton wrote:
The progress in human relations is measured by your treatment of others. It is not measured by governments, or power, or wealth. It is as simple as a new pair of shoes for a barefoot man and as complex as a child’s unshakeable belief in Santa Claus.
God Bless you and keep you safe and healthy all of this Christmas Season and for the whole of the New Year.