Friday, December 20, 2019 - Updated: 10:45 am
QUESTION: Our culture makes a clear connection between Christmas and New Year’s. The liturgy does not seem to make that connection nor celebrate the new year at all. Why is that?
ANSWER: In the liturgical life of the church, Christmas is the solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. It has its own season of liturgical celebration. During that time, the church celebrates the great joy that the Savior is born in our midst.
The liturgy celebrates Jan. 1 as the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. This feast is placed there because the liturgy (and the earliest church councils) saw it as the natural consequence of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas). If the child born of Mary is God, then although conceived by the Holy Spirit, she brought forth into the world the Incarnate Son of God. She is then rightly called the Mother of God. This must be seen, of course, in a theological sense and not chronologically as if Mary could “precede” the eternal God.
So, the church does not specifically celebrate New Year’s Day. But the theological meaning of Christmas is related to what we celebrate at New Year’s.
Christmas is a “snapshot” of a moment in time. The term incarnation is the meaning of Christmas as the presence of the divine in our lives. Central to our faith is the belief that our God is not distant, abstract or unaffected by our prayer or our plight. Yet, far from being a theoretical construct, the mystery of the Incarnation affirms that the divine not only “wants to be” a part of our lives, but actually became so and remains so in the presence of Jesus Christ. Christmas celebrates that moment.
The Incarnation is the mystery by which God chose to take on flesh to live among us as human in all things but sin. In that condition, God forever “incarnated” into human life and sealed forever a covenant between the human and divine. In this way, God enabled us to see within ourselves the very image and likeness of the divine.
The term Christmas then describes a moment (an event) in time that occurred once and will not be repeated. The Incarnation, however, celebrates a reality that occurred once but endures. That mystery is at the heart of Christian faith. By means of it we understand some of the most significant realities of our lives.
The Incarnation describes the presence in our world and in our lives of the Messiah and Savior, one who is both God and human.
The Incarnation is a reality that enables us to see in practical ways, not only the presence of Christ but also each moment as potentially “new.” We are ever growing, changing and becoming what God intends us to be.
New Year’s speaks to us of a new beginning, an opportunity to start fresh with resolutions and renewed hope.
Christmas (the Incarnation) says that we are not alone in embarking on what is new. Christ is with us to support, sustain and accomplish our hopes and dreams. Christmas, for the believer, gives New Year’s a deeper meaning and renewed potential.
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.