What Does Christmas Really Mean?

VisitationGuess what? We read the exact same gospel passage at Holy Mass today and on Sunday.

What do we call it, when the Blessed Mother came to her cousin in the Judean hill country? The Visitation. Two women and two… babies, unborn infants.

What time of year was it? Hmm… We keep the Feast of the Visitation on… May 31. So Mary arrived at Elizabeth and Zechariah’s house on May 31?

We can’t say that for sure. The Church chose the date of May 31 just fifty years ago. Not because we know the exact date when it happened, but because May 31 falls between two Solemnities, namely… Annunciation and Nativity of John the Baptist. (Like the account goes in St. Luke’s gospel, right?)

How about this: How long did Our Lady stay with Elizabeth? Correct! Three months.

How pregnant was Elizabeth when Mary arrived? Right again! Six months.

So one thing we can say for sure is: Our Lady stayed until the time of St. John’s birth. She left either right before or right after Elizabeth gave birth.

We don’t have dates, but we have a clear, reliable time frame: Mary conceived baby Jesus six months after Elizabeth conceived St. John. Then Our Lady traveled south to Judah, and stayed three months. Mary gave birth to Jesus how many months later? This math is not hard. Six.

dec25Now, you probably think: Blah blah blah, Father. We didn’t come here to do math! What’s your point?

Ok. Some people think to themselves: Christmas is all about good feelings and tolerance and world peace. The details don’t matter. Maybe Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem; maybe He wasn’t. Maybe He was born on December 25; maybe He was born some other day. Maybe the Bible is true; maybe it’s all just a lovely story. Doesn’t matter. Christmas simply means: feel good and be a good person.


I, for one, care. About whether or not December 25 is Jesus’ correct birthday. I don’t want to sing a whole bunch of Masses next Monday night and Tuesday morning–if Jesus actually got born on a different day. I want to sing the Masses on the correct day.

Feel me? So, listen: We will solve this. We will.

It is going to involve an elaborate Bible quiz. So hard that you couldn’t possibly study hard enough. But study hard anyway.

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