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Faith Matters: Christmas is coming?

Do you ever wonder what makes the Christmas season feel like – well, Christmas? This past year, especially since we began Advent, this question seems more profound. When we think about all that is occurring, we can be overwhelmed with the negative. The pandemic, violence, isolation, discord, and even death have been in the news both locally and nationally.

The Burgermeister Meisterburger meme has been circulating proclaiming the “cancellation of Christmas.” To that end, many faith communities are experiencing loss with the possibility of not gathering with their faith families to celebrate the birth of our Savior. This wound is still fresh after experiencing the same loss with our inability to gather for Christ’s resurrection at Easter 2020. Even the Germanic demon of Krampus raised his ugly head this past weekend with heralds of Christmas being a pagan holiday. This all makes it seem that the Grinch, prior to conversion, is stronger and more popular and thus becoming the Christmas 2020 spokesperson.

However, in all the cacophony of negative noise, those Christmas bells still ring through.

The community comes together to mourn the loss of loved ones as we are consoled by the promised gift of a Savior who was crucified by the world. The doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel work with tired and hurting feet and hearts to care for those who are sick and isolated.

People of faith organize ways to love the poor and outcast so that they may experience the gift of respect and comfort. Police, firefighters, and emergency staff respond to every call and place themselves at the service of our community. Our local leaders struggle to find common ground to help our community move forward in positive ways while facing financial and civil struggles. The men and women of our military protect our nation by leaving their family to serve all families in our country. As people read this list, they might think, “this is not Christmas; it happens every day.” That is the point – Christmas is not just a day.

Christmas is a day that reminds all of us that we are placed on earth to care for others every day throughout the year. There is a mentality that the one who dies with the most toys, money, power, and control wins at the game of life. That is so untrue. In the Gospels, Jesus asks: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”(Mark 8:36 NABRE). Life finds meaning not in things but in relationship with others.

The evils of Krampus are defeated by the miracles and love of St. Nicholas who cared for the children and families of his time. The “cancellation of Christmas” memes are overshadowed by the lights of Candy Cane Lane and our homes, which shatter the darkness and fill others with joy. The loss of faith community is overcome by the humming and singing of Christmas carols from masked singers wandering through the streets. Violence and discord is conquered through kind words and care for each other as brothers and sisters. Even death is swallowed up by a promise of new life fulfilled in the birth of a Savior. It is not about the toys, the power, or the money. Christmas is about being Christ for others by giving and receiving life and love.

Jesus said, “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Merry Christmas – abundantly!

Rev. Brian Van Fossen, pastor, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Parish, Williamsport

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