Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to drive over a two-day period for almost five hours. I was anxious to hear some Christmas music and I searched for a few stations that provided 24-hour selections of holiday music.
After a few hours of listening and hearing not one selection that even came close to what Christmas is really all about, I made it a project to see if there was anything at all on commercial radio that commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ. I heard about Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, silver bells, sleigh rides, a white Christmas and various other musical tributes to the holiday season, but nothing about a silent night, Bethlehem, angels singing, shepherds visiting or three kings traveling.
I really do not see anything wrong with most of the musical selections I heard, and I realize that they are part of a campaign to get people into the stores or in moods to buy gifts, but it appears that this year that holiday campaign has become totally secularized. With all that is going on around us in terms of preparation for this great celebration, I wonder if we as Catholic Christians are being drawn into this strong secular season of preparation and possibly even forgetting that Advent should also be a time of real spiritual preparation to celebrate not only a great holiday, but a special holy day.
How will we celebrate Christmas? Will we buy into the hectic contemporary culture and celebrate the gift sharing, the festive meal and frenetic activity and when Christmas day comes to a close, be thankful not for such a great gift from God, but because we are so fatigued from all the secular trimmings? Will we celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas with a party to which the guest of honor has not been invited or even seriously thought of as we prepared? Will we even participate in the Eucharistic banquet He has prepared for us on this very special day?
Our contemporary world is filled with many hardships and difficulties and it is a real temptation to blot out the tension we face every day with things that will transport our hearts and minds far from the violence and heartbreak we are confronted with at every moment. We do seek relief from the many pressures we face, but shopping, busyness and unreflective activity is not the answer. There is only one way that we can achieve the peace and harmony that we seek so deeply; St. Augustine said it powerfully: “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in You.”
The Church gives us this Advent season and the great feast of Christmas to help us “rest in the Lord.” So, let us continue in this secular preparation, for there are very good elements in it; however, let us take time to realize that the real celebration of this holy season should help us enter into that inner peace and joy that only God can bring.
The invitation is offered, the road map is real and the results are truly possible. Let us enter into this wonderful experience.
A blessed Christmas to all and may the New Year bring you joy and inner peace!
+Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop of Charleston