Sunday, Dec. 23, is the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C). Dec. 25 is the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas), a holy day of obligation.
Remember the 12 days of Christmas — or, actually, the "13" days of Christmas. Don’t miss any one of them: Dec. 25, Christmas Day; Dec. 26, the feast of St. Stephen, martyr; Dec. 27, the feast of St. John the Evangelist; Dec. 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents; Dec. 29, Christmas Octave Day 5; Sunday, Dec. 30, the feast of the Holy Family; Dec. 31, Christmas Octave Day 7; Jan. 1, the Solemnity of the Blessed Mother, a holy day of obligation; Jan. 2, the feast of Sts. Basil and Gregory; Jan. 3, Christmas weekday; Jan. 4, feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; Jan. 5, feast of St. John Neumann; and Jan. 6, the Epiphany.
Advent IV: Micah 5:1-4; Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
Christmas Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalms 98:1-6; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-14
Christmas is traditionally a "recommitment holiday": On Christmas, we adore the Christ Child and once again accept our faith.
This is a perfect day for us to heed Pope Benedict XVI’s call from his most recent apostolic letter: "May this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love."
What better time to firm up our relationship with Christ than by the manger at Bethlehem? If you wonder how faith in Christ can do all that, you need look no further than the Christmas scene.
Faith believes in the One who is not seen — and the glory of God is hidden in the newborn Baby with the poor couple in the stable.
Faith sees God not in the earthquake or the fire, but in a whisper: The newborn Baby does nothing showy; the power of his presence is all he offers.
The Christmas scene even gives us the content of our faith.
Faith in Christ is faith in beauty incarnate — and who is more beautiful than a newborn baby?
Faith believes in goodness incarnate — and who is more innocent than the Christ Child?
Faith knows God is love, and that Love became man — and a newborn baby is nothing but a vulnerable gift, like love itself.
Faith believes in Christ, who said he was truth himself — and the tiny Christ Child, apart from anything he does, attracts attention from kings, shepherds, angels and the stars.
So, before opening gifts on Christmas morning, gather the family around the manger and first give the birthday Child the gift of your recommitment to the faith that will bring ultimate happiness.
Tom and April Hoopes
write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence
at Benedictine College.