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home : from the bishop : from the bishop February 21, 2019

12/14/2017 12:30:00 PM
A Message from Bishop O'Connell: Celebration of Christmas is not just for children
A window depicting the Nativity is seen in Holy Spirit Church, Mother of Mercy Parish, Asbury Park. Ken Falls photo

A window depicting the Nativity is seen in Holy Spirit Church, Mother of Mercy Parish, Asbury Park. Ken Falls photo

Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.

Every once in a while, at parties or dinners before Christmas, I’ve asked adults about their holiday plans only to hear some lament, “Oh, Christmas is for children.” 

I must confess that such a comment saddens me a bit. 

Yes, Santa Claus and his eight reindeer are for kids; yes, singing “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph,” “Frosty the Snowman” and the dramatic reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” are for kids; and, yes, staying up all night waiting to tear the wrappings off Christmas presents is for kids.  These are the family traditions that have long accompanied December 25th.  Remember your own Christmases and all the excitement and happiness that filled your homes, memories that linger long past childhood and bring a nostalgic smile to your faces?  Sure enough, these are the more commercial and secular side of the great feast of Christmas and not the true “reason for the season.”  But they do bring about a feeling of joy that permeates the weeks leading up to Christmas.  They prepare the world for something special, something unlike any other time of the year!

Christmas is, indeed, about a Child but it isn’t only “for children.”  The weeks of Advent that the Church offers Christians each year – young and old – ready us for the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.  There were no Christmas trees then but the evergreens today remind us that Christmas brought about something that is forever, something not just for children.  There were no blinking Christmas lights then but there was a Star that shone so brightly in the ancient eastern sky that curious shepherds and even Kings followed its light to a stable.  There were no gifts exchanged then but gold, frankincense and myrrh were laid at a baby’s feet.  There were no Christmas carols then but angels were heard singing of “the glory of God and peace on earth.”  And children, “staying up all night waiting” now reminds us of the expectation and hope of Israel then for the long promised Messiah, foretold by the ancient prophets.  A manger, a Mother Mary, a beloved husband Joseph and a Child born and lying there wrapped in swaddling clothes warmed by the breath of huddled stable animals – that was how Christmas began; and that is what we celebrate each year as we remember the true “reason for the season.”

“Christmas is for children.”  It is, yes – but Christmas is also for every child who has grown to adulthood and beyond, knowing of and loving the Child born for every one of us that day; the Child who came for every one of us that day; the Child whose life was lived for every one of us beginning that day and every day since.  Children grow up … and so did the Child Jesus.  Christmas was and is one day, true, but it is forever and for all.  Christmas is, truly, “the gift that keeps on giving” no matter how young or old we may be.

Santa, evergreen trees, lights, carols, gifts … they all have their place “for children.”  It is up to those among us who are no longer children, however, to make sure that Christmas’ deeper, truest meaning is never lost or forgotten or replaced by the worldly “glitter and glow.”   

“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6).”

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”  Merry Christmas!




Related Stories:
• An Advent message from Bishop O'Connell: Emmanuel, 'God among us'
• Parishes, schools celebrate Advent, Christmas

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