For it truly is Christmas. The Church holds certain solemnities as so special that they can’t be celebrated in one 24 hour period; Easter and Christmas are those solemnities. They are so special and hold so much significance that the church tells us that those ‘days’ are spread over 8 days; thus the Octave of Christmas and Octave of Easter.
Christmas Day, which we are still in, has much to celebrate and reflect on. We start Christmas day with the joyful celebration of our God being born among us – He has come to earth to be one with us and save us. This is an explosive joy and one that lingers; but just as we start, the church then reminds us of suffering with the celebration of St Stephen the first martyr. This is followed by the feasts of: St John the evangelist, the Holy Innocents, martyr St Thomas Becket, and the Holy Family; quite a contrast within the one liturgical day of Christmas. Why would the Church within the celebration of Christ’s birth have us celebrate pain and suffering and death of the martyrs along with family and evangelization?
It is because of the Cross. The shadow of the Cross falls back on the Manger (as the saying goes). If it wasn’t for the Cross, the birth of Jesus would be just another baby born, even if He was still God it would be a non-event, as far as our salvation is concerned. Jesus was born to die for us, all of us, and on top of that He gives us the example of how we are to live our lives. We too are to follow Christ’s path with our cross. The cross of our lives, as witnesses to the joy of God (St Stephen), as members of the body Christ (the Holy Innocents), as members of society (St Thomas Becket) are part and parcel of the joy of being one with God – and we embrace it! Every part of our lives will have its moments of the cross, every relationship will, by its nature, require us to live and suffer for Christ, at work, in our family, everywhere.
But we have a peace, a joy that follows us, that walks with us – we have Christ Himself! The shadow of the Cross can’t fall back on the manger if it didn’t have the light of the Resurrection to cast it. We know that Christ came through all the sufferings and pains of the Passion to rise again and enter heaven glorified. He has beaten death and has promised to be with us, each one of us and that is the great news of our faith. WE ARE NOT ALONE!
Merry Christmas to each and every one.