Christmas is the feast of the incarnation, the feast of God becoming flesh (the Latin “in carne” means “enfleshment”). This is a uniquely Christian teaching, the Divine choosing to become one of us. God is not only Transcendent but is also wholly Immanent, Emmanuel (God-with-us). We celebrate how that was accomplished through the miraculous virgin birth of his Son.
Though Immanent, God still remains Transcendent. We must rise above ourselves to meet him fully. This can only be done through the blood of Jesus. The wonderful mystery of Emmanuel is that God is with us as we rise toward Him. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit and dwells in our hearts. Thus an understanding of both Christmas and Easter is required to comprehend the Christian faith.
How do we celebrate the Christmas Season? The secular celebration of the Season seems to begin the day after Thanksgiving or even sooner, depending on the decisions of today’s retail market. The Season lasts until Christmas Day when all those presents many of us have dutifully bought are delivered, after which the Christmas tree is often quickly removed so that our homes can return to some sort of normalcy.
The liturgical church on the other hand celebrates the Season of Christmas differently. It begins with anticipation, as we prepare ourselves during the Season of Advent for the arrival of the Christ Child. The celebration of the Christmas Season begins with a Eucharistic celebration on Christmas Eve (called the Christ Mass in the Roman Catholic Church) from which the name Christmas is derived. The Christmas Season concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, twelve days later.
During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and we reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with Jesus. The consecration of this gift is later celebrated on Resurrection Sunday, observing the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus died for us, paying the price of our sins, so that we may be raised with him to newness of life.
The Season of Christmas gives us a time to slow down and drink in the love of God. The psalmist wrote:
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. (Psalm 34:8)