Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has declared that “there will be no Christmas this year.” When I read that, my thoughts immediately turned to a popular song containing the charmingly inverted opening lyrics, “There’ll always be a Christmas; a Christmas there’ll always be.” Sometimes there is more truth in popular songs than in political pronouncements. Mr. Trudeau is well known for overstepping his bounds, but his recent declaration represents a quantum leap. He did restrain himself, however, by not stating that any Canadian born on December 25 will not have a birthday this year. Such a declaration would have been well received by those who are overly sensitive about their age and would be happy to remain the same age for two years in a row. Nonetheless, Trudeau does not have the power, unlike the legendary Superman, to alter time.
Canada’s chief political officer sorely underestimates the durability of Christmas. God would not have entered the world as a babe only to have the commemoration of this prodigious event canceled, if only for one year, because of a virus. Christmas is cosmic. It is far beyond the reach of politicians or any earthly potentates, for that matter. Christmas is unstoppable. It reverberates through the corridors of time unsullied, undeterred, and undiminished.
Christmas celebrations in the year 2020 may be somewhat subdued. Large gatherings, office parties, sporting events, even caroling may be outlawed. Yet the Nativity itself, the commemoration of the Incarnation, gives Christmas Day its perpetuity, just as Christ’s words, “Do this in memory of Me” gives the Mass its everlasting relevance. Christ will not be forgotten. Yes, Virginia, there will be a Christmas this year.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Wisdom, we read these words: “For while all things were in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of her course, thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne.” Here, the Incarnation is described brimming with mystery. It takes place in a moment of silence, not at the bidding of the world or in the clamor of anxious arrangements. When God formed Eve, He put Adam into a deep sleep, indicating that the creation of the first woman was entirely God’s work. So too, the silence of the world at the first Christmas indicates, again, that God alone was in charge. In addition, God wants the particularities of sacred events to be honored. Christmas Day is December 25. Pope Benedict XVI made a critically important point when he stated that “the Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time.” Christmas is inseparably bound up with the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The Angel Gabriel told Mary at the Annunciation that “she will bring forth a son” who “shall be king over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Christmas is of God and is forever.
God’s transition from the eternal to the temporal, from the divine to the human, is a mystery that is far above our intellect’s capacity to comprehend. Why would God make such a journey? He does not need us! Yet, in this transition we locate the very heart of the Christmas message. The Incarnation begins to make sense only when we see it as an extraordinary act of love.
Concerning the Incarnation, theologian Romano Guardini states that “the glory of it is so overwhelming that to all who do not accept love as an absolute point of departure, its manifestations must seem the most senseless folly.”
Divine life, incarnated in the world in the person of Jesus Christ, provides a compelling image of a love that is both natural and supernatural. Christmas is the appearance of perfect love in history, one that history must never forget. It transcends anything that the world, of itself, can envision. It gives added meaning to our small acts of love because it unites them with Divine Love.
Christmas does not belong to Caesar. It is God’s gift to “all men of good will.” And that is why Christmas is forever, having neither an expiration date nor a brief political term of office.
[Photo credit: Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images]