Christmas Lasts More Than a Day

The liturgical texts for Christmas are among some of the most wonderful prayers of the Church.
"Today a new day dawns, the day of our redemption, prepared by God from ages past, the beginning of our never ending gladness".

This response from the Office of Readings for Christmas sums up so well just what it is the Church celebrates during this season - the beginning of the mystery of salvation which had been God's plan from all eternity.

The second of the Christmas prefaces also expresses this concept powerfully and poetically:

For on the feast of this awe-filled mystery,
             though invisible in his own divine nature,
             he has appeared visibly in ours;
             and begotten before all ages,
             he has begun to exist in time;
             so that, raising up in himself all that was cast down,
             he might restore unity to all creation
             and call straying humanity back to the heavenly Kingdom.
A high point of the Christmas celebrations is the reading of St John's prologue: "The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory---", the Gospel reading for Mass on Christmas day.

Many of the Mass prayers use the image of light:

O God, who have made this most sacred night radiant
             with the splendour of the true light,
             grant, we pray, that we who have known the mysteries of his light on earth,
             may also delight in his gladness in heaven.

(Opening Prayer, Mass during the Night)

This Christmas image of light, of night giving way to day, is reinforced by the sequences of Masses for Christmas.  While there are two different Easter Masses, one for the Vigil and another for Easter Sunday, four different sets of Mass texts are provided for Christmas - the Vigil Mass, Mass at Night, Mass at Dawn and Mass during the Day.  It is important that the texts chosen fit the actual time of the celebration as they include images corresponding to the gradual movement from darkness into daylight.

Christmas is not only a celebration of Christ's birth.  It is a time for remembering also the revelation of Christ to the Jewish shepherds and to the Gentile magi, his baptism by John in the Jordan and his changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.  In all these saving events, we know that "the Word is made flesh and dwells among us".

So much cannot be fitted into one day.  Despite what the commercial world might try to suggest, Christmas celebrations are not over and done with as the sun sets on December 25 and the shops prepare for "post-Christmas" sales!

The Church’s Christmas Time begins on 25th December and comes to a conclusion on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Sunday 13 January in 2013). The celebrations extend through the octave of Christmas, which includes the feasts of St Stephen (Boxing Day), St John (27th), the Holy Innocents (28th) and the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (1st January), and beyond.  Lots of feasts, plenty of reasons to celebrate.

Leave the Christmas tree and decorations up, keep singing Christmas carols and continue spreading Christmas goodwill.

Elizabeth Harrington