Christmas is a feast that teaches us many spiritual truths, including the reality that we must become "little" to enter into the Kingdom of God. As the Catechism notes:
"526 To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom. For this, we must humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become "children of God" we must be "born from above" or "born of God". Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us. Christmas is the mystery of this "marvelous exchange":
O marvelous exchange! Man's Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity."
The English word "Christmas," comes from the Old English CrÄ«stesmÃ¦sse, meaning "Christ's Mass." This focuses our attention on how we should celebrate the feast of Christmas, namely, by attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where Christ comes again in the Holy Eucharist.
The Church gives us three separate Masses to celebrate on Christmas, each with their own readings:Christmas Eve, Midnight Mass, and Mass during Christmas Day. A highlight of theses three Masses is the Midnight Mass. It is at this Mass that we commemorate the approximate time of Christ's birth as it is believed He was born in the middle of the night.
The liturgical season of Christmas, contrary to popular belief, does not end on December 26th. While it is one of the shorter seasons of the year, it extends all the way to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. Additionally, because of the solemnity of Christmas, it is given an "octave," which means that the eight days following Christmas are celebrated as if it was Christmas. The "Gloria" is said/sung on each of these eight days and the readings at Mass revolve around the mystery of Christ's birth. If we were to celebrate the Octave of Christmas in our homes in a similar manner to how we celebrate it in the liturgy at church, we would open presents every day for eight straight days!
During the Christmas season, there are the feasts of the Holy Family, Mary, Mother of God and theEpiphany of Our Lord. These three feasts enrich our understanding of Christmas and help us deepen our love of God and the Incarnation.
The color for the season of Christmas is white and signifies purity, light and celebration. Jesus is known as the "light of the world," who came to shatter our darkness, and so we celebrate His brith by using white in the liturgy.
While the Christmas season is focused on the beginning of our salvation, it also foreshadows what is to come in Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. The gifts of the Magi are the most obvious signs of what is to come, symbolizing Christ's kingship (gold), priesthood (frankincense) and burial (myrrh). So even though it is a joyous time of celebration, Christmas prepares us for the somber season of Lent and gives us a foretaste of the even more joyous season of Easter.
âRead the Entire Series
- The Start of a New Year - Advent
- The Liturgical Year - Christ's Life Relived Each Year