Black Friday has come and gone, and so commercial Christmas begins. I am tempted to fall back into my Scrooge persona, rejecting the TV and web commercials that seem to me to say, “Buy, buy, buy; make your nearest and dearest love you with nice costly gifts.” Bah! Humbug!
It takes me back to childhood days, when as a Jew I envied my Christian friends whο had Christmas trees and gifts that were impressive; a bicycle, an electric train. The Chanukkah menorah and eight days of Chanukkah gelt and candy couldn’t hold a candle to that — pun intended.
I see the Christmas TV programs — even that classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” — and it seems to me that more and more, outside of Advent services, we miss entirely the point of Christmas: the Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus, born as a human.
Now this is a truly subtly wonderful event. All the heresies that deny or subordinate the human person of Christ are made naught by the Nativity.
And so I pray at the beginning of the third decade of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, the birth of Jesus: “Lord, let Christmas be celebrated not just as an occasion for giving gifts, but as the Incarnation, God made man.”
And there it is: the reminder that our God is a God for and of humanity — a God for you and for me, not a god of things. There must be more to Christmas than a Yule tree and Santa Claus. I appreciate that gift-giving echoes the gifts of the Magi, however I did not convert to Catholicism so that I could legitimately receive Christmas gifts. In truth, I still feel somewhat uncomfortable about receiving Christmas gifts, and ask children to donate to a charity instead.
Am I being a Catholic Scrooge, or a modern Puritan trying to wipe out Christmas celebrations? I hope not. Far be it from me to attempt to dampen holiday good feelings.
Nevertheless, I insist the better part of those holiday good feelings should be awe and wonder that God came to us as a man, and that nothing about my humanity has gone unknown or unexperienced by him. From the wood of the cradle to the wood of the cross, he is the God of All-Knowing, who loves me as I am, and has redeemed me. I need no other gift.