“One is coming after me who will baptize not just with water, but with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8)
Who said that? I guess the Lord Jesus could have announced Himself, well enough, if He wanted to. He could have said, “Check it out, people! Son of God in the house!” But we know that (if we might put it this way): That’s not His style.
Christ gave John the Baptist the mission of heralding His coming. He gave the Church that mission, too. He gave the mission to each of us. Announcing, proclaiming: The Christ has come! The God-man, the Redeemer, the key of all knowledge, and the everlasting mountain of true happiness—He has come to us! He is Jesus, Son of Mary, born in Bethlehem during the reign of Caesar Augustus.
Now, we know that our beloved Knights of Columbus have an admirable ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ campaign. And I, for one, love wishing people a Merry Christmas. Even if they’re wearing a yarmulke, or phylacteries, or a Sikh turban, or a burka.
But, at the same time, we have to face facts. It’s not as if our culture has just momentarily forgotten about Jesus and the true, glorious mystery of Christmas. It’s not like everyone will suddenly wake up from the nightmare of Black Fridays, and Santa Clause dispatching teams of Mercedes, and Wal-Mart ads insisting that you can have as many wise men as you want! It’s not like the Western world will snap out of this nonsense and remember Jesus and His peace and His good news for the poor. Then everyone will sing Silent Night in unison.
We might think that the President of the United States, or the head of the UN, or the President of the European Union, or someone like that, ought to issue an official apology to Christ. It would say something like, “Dear Son of God, on behalf of all the members of this confused, self-centered modern culture, we want to tell you that we are really sorry for turning your birthday into a joke. Thank God, we have now remembered that you are the Light of the World and the Prince of Peace. We promise to be quiet now, and to pray from now until December 25, with fasting and penance, so that we can welcome you properly when you come.”
We might think that the CEO’s of all the Fortune 500 companies should issue their own statement, declaring that Christmas really is not about money. And all the cable channels and radio stations would announce their plan to give us some peace and knock off all the schmaltzy music and cheesy commercials.
But the facts do not support the idea that any of this is going to happen. The facts are starker and simpler.
As Christians in the USA in 2014, we do not face a culture in willful denial of the reality of Christmas. No, we face widespread ignorance of the reality of Christmas. The world is not intentionally ignoring the Person Whose birthday it is. The Western world of AD 2014 really just doesn’t know who He is.
After all, how is it that we know? How do we know that Jesus is the reason for the season? Everyone else thinks that ‘The Holidays’ means: Extra under-compensated work, so that the rich get richer and everyone else goes deeper and deeper into debt. How is it that we know different? How do we know that this time of year actually means true and profound joy?
We know what Christmas really means because generous souls before us found a way to build up the Church and give us a home in Her. We know Jesus, and the light of God’s holy incarnation, because we belong to the great family called the Catholic Church.
There was a time when some people claimed they could have their own personal Jesus, without the Church. But, of course, all those people got the faith they had in the first place from the Church. And they are all pretty much dead of old age now anyway.
There was a time when it took courage to “take on” the “established Church,” pointing out things like: even popes sometimes commit sins! True enough. But the Church, fundamentally, is the Mother from whom we receive Jesus. And it’s not like the world is made up of the people who receive Jesus from good priests and bishops and the people who receive Him from bad priests and bishops. The world is made up of people who, like us, have blessedly received the Good News of salvation from the Church. And people who haven’t.
Jesus Christ Himself, the real Person, Who the Blessed Virgin held in her womb, ready to give birth, 2,014 years ago—He is the most beautiful, the most wonderful, the most liberating, the most hopeful, the most thoroughly ravishing thing ever. He is the true and everlasting God, and the source and strength of all human goodness. We find Him in the Church, which He Himself founded, so that everyone could know Him and find salvation and true life in Him.
These are not just pretty theories, or the personal opinions of preachers and adherents. These are the facts of God’s plan. Christ is the source of joy for all mankind.
Mankind is not willfully ignoring all this, and choosing to watch commercials and play video games instead. Mankind is wasting its time with a lot of nonsense these days because, actually, without Jesus, mankind tends to become cruelly boring.
Now, are we going to curse the darkness, when we have matches in our pocket? When we have a torch in our pocket? 2,014 years ago, only a few people knew about Jesus Christ. They pretty much all died in a blaze of glory, spending everything they had to share the Good News of His coming. Let’s do that, too.