Keep Mass in Christmas

Remember Candlemas? The folks at Calvary Temple proclaiming “Keep Christ in Christmas” don’t either. The source of our present secularization isn’t the lack of Christ… it’s the lack of Mass.

The highway billboards have come down: Keep Christ in Christmas. Or the more eye-catching: _____mas: It isn’t Christmas without Him.
I have to hand it to the local Protestant arena, the massive congregation at Calvary Temple. Every year they plaster the image of Christ along highways, byways, and malls. Santa kneeling before the manger, with his head bowed, his red hat in his hand. (We’ll leave the origin of this venerable saint and his garb for another time.) Even better is Jesus, Mary, and Joseph together at last for their annual family reunion. It’s an unwitting testament to the power of iconography, courtesy of a church with clear windows, bare walls, and loads of tastefully arranged flower pots.
To Calvary Temple’s target audience, Christmas is officially over. It started with a bang the day after Thanksgiving, as shoppers rushed from the gate, galloped a few times around the mall, and then eased into the home stretch with their prizes. The holiday ended less conspicuously some days before or after the New Year, as trees were unceremoniously dumped by the curb to surrender their needles and await the coming of the garbage man.
The season of preaching “Keep Christ in Christmas” is over as well. Extra ecclesiam, there is little sense of Christmas as a liturgical season lasting at least until Epiphany. Intra Ecclesiam, there is barely a remembrance of the days it stretched through the dark, cold January months until February 2. This is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mother, who, after 40 days, according to Jewish law, presented her Son in the temple and was herself purified and cleared for re-entry by the priest Simeon. It is also the traditional day to bless candles, according to the canticle of Simeon that Christ would be “a light for the revelation of the Gentiles.”
While not lost in the Catholic liturgical cycle, this feast is underrated. Along with it, the sense of Christmas as a season beginning on Christmas Day is almost no more.
This year, when faced with Calvary Temple’s billboards, I started thinking that the trouble is not that Christ is no longer in Christmas, it’s that Mass is no longer in Christmas. The real source of our present secularization is not the lack of Christ, it’s the lack of Mass.
Historically, Mass was the prime target of the reformers. Christ was retained while Mass suppressed. When England was fighting to maintain its cultural, political, and religious revolution, she attacked the Mass, not Christ. In a 1644 act of Parliament, she went further than that and tried to stamp out Christmas Day itself by imposing fasting of all things and forcing shopkeepers to open. It wasn’t Christ she was after, it was Mass. Even plum pudding and mince pie were branded as the seductive companions and accomplices of that great liturgical feast.
It is no mystery that, hundreds of years later, Christ has gone out of the hearts of the general population. When it became impossible to believe that the Eternal God could come down into real time and real space at Mass, it couldn’t be long before we’d forget about Him coming down into real time and real space 2,000 years ago.
I have no doubt that the folks at Calvary Temple believe in actual Christmas — that the God-man came in an actual cave, on an actual night, to be received and adored by His actual subjects, while lying in an animal’s actual feedbox on hay that was probably actually very itchy. Yet the purveyors of their “tradition” have stripped the feast of its Eucharistic significance — that the God-man still comes on actual altars, to be received and adored by His actual subjects, to lie in their actual mouths that are probably actually very unsanitary.
That truth — that God’s ultimate emptying of Himself for our sake continues at every Mass — was suppressed those hundreds of years ago. It is only logical that if the Christ of the Mass can disappear from the hearts of the people, the Christ of the manger can follow Him into myth.
That the folks at Calvary Temple remind us of Him, bless their hearts. Let Grace rain upon them. Peace on earth to men of good will.
But on this coming feast of Candlemas, let us remember what the prayer says: “We beseech Thee, O Lord, hearken to Thy people, and grant that by the light of Thy face, we may inwardly attain to those things which Thou grantest us outwardly to venerate by this yearly observance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Christ___: It isn’t Christmas without it.

Susie Lloyd is the author of the award-winning humor book Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water! Look for the sequel from Sophia Institute Press, available 2008.

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  • Susie Lloyd

    Susie Lloyd is the author of the award-winning humor book Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water! (Sophia Institute Press, 2004) and its sequel, Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids (Sophia, 2013). Find more at

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