Open Bible:
December 2002 

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Christmas: a festivity




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à la lumière Christmas: a festivity 

Luke in his Gospel narrates the birth of Jesus (Luke 2, 1-20). He describes Christmas as a festivity. On her way to Bethlehem with Joseph, Mary gives birth to her firstborn son in a stable, because it was not too appropriate to have a baby in the middle of the common room of a hotel.

un enfant nous est né She wraps him in swaddling clothes that she brought with her and lays him in a nearby manger. All went well, it is the boy everyone was waiting for. Like any birth, this one is lived like a feast.  

However, here, the character of a feast is underlined by an envoy from God, an angel, who proclaims it as a "great joy" to the shepherds who were watching their sheep during the night: "A savior messiah is born to you " All the people of Israel were waiting effectively for a messiah, sent by God. Prophets spoke about him "the people who were walking in the darkness saw a great light…. Because a child is born to us, we are given a son…. (Isaiah, 9, 1 and 5)".

Then it is a hope that is happening at last and it is offered to all, even to the most disadvantaged category of people, like the shepherds were at that time. To underline the importance of the event, Luke tells us that the angel is joined by a celestial army who starts to glorify God before returning back to heaven: "Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on earth to men He loves". The ways the evangelists used in writing to show the heaven that opens up and the humanity not limited to its condition on earth, compete well with the spectacular effects used in movies. All were amazed by the shepherds' story after they saw the child. To add more to it, Mathew (2, 1-12) relates that magi, informed by the appearance in the sky of a comet, symbol of an extraordinary event, came from their distant East with prestigious and expensive gifts to honor the child, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

faire place à la lumière Christian tradition projected itself into the popular tradition that was celebrating the winter solstice to make it the anniversary of the birth of Jesus. It is the time where things are reversing. The length of the day is starting to increase. The darkness is gradually leaving room to light.  

The symbol is meaningful; Christians have retained all the festivity aspect already present and gave it even more magnificence for celebrating the birth of the one who calls us, men as well as women, to the light. No wonder Christmas is made the most universal of the feasts. It is the feast that lasts the longest: preparations start in November and the last lights are switched off end of January. It is prepared a long time in advance because it needs an appropriate design of garlands and lights. It also requires a preparation of oneself, an attitude of waiting.

The liturgy time preceding Christmas is named Advent; it offers a time to be prepared. Children know the Advent calendars where each day one opens a window till Christmas. It is the time of impatience.  Avent

Probably for this feast we spend the largest amount of money in gifts and fine food during the year. It is then only a commercial business? Not quite. In Christmas there is more than a materialist Christmas, some thing that goes beyond the feast and gives a meaning to the desire to rejoice together. The need to get out of the every day dullness, to make the home more attractive, to light up one's own city, to see people happy around us is not only the result of a well-done publicity.

Christmas is mostly a family festivity. In our northern hemisphere, the season indulges us to stay more indoors rather than outdoors. Children have a central place at Christmas.

Père Noël The myth of Father Christmas stimulates the desire to offer what is pleasing and to make a surprise in order to produce the amazement of the younger and older ones. 

A feast where we enjoy amazement in the warmth of a family home goes beyond its commercial aspects. The refinement, even the luxury, are not simply intending to dazzle, but also a way to express that nothing is too good for a feast, a profound intuition which prevents desperation, the intuition that nothing is finished, nothing is lost, that every thing can restart like the birth of a new born child. A hope that is sitting deep inside our hearts. The souvenir of a child who maybe has changed the face of the world is staying more or less in the collective unconsciousness.

Christmas is linked to the marvel, the marvel of the evangelist text, the marvel of the decorations, of the lights, of the gifts; the marvel too is of thinking the others, to care for the little ones, to live a shared love.

Is not it a foretaste of the Kingdom that the child Jesus came to unveil? Then the angel was right to announce a great joy for every body.   grande joie