Well, Christmas is officially over, and the Church has entered into ordinary time. Gone are the Christmas lights that made the neighborhood look like a Christmas Wonderland fit for a holiday movie. The Christmas music on the boulevard has been silenced, leaving more room for the noise and bustle that usually crowds our ears. The trees that adorned our homes and then lined our blocks on garbage night have been picked up and disposed of by our trusty sanitation workers. Everything has gone back to normal.
And that’s a problem.
One thing I love about Christmastime is that it gives me permission to listen to my Christmas playlist. You’d probably love my Christmas playlist. It spans decades and generations, starting with the 40s and 50s hits from Bing Crosby and Brenda Lee, continuing to the Ronettes singing “Frosty the Snowman”—made a little more famous by the Christmas Party scene in Goodfellas. Anyway, it goes down through the decades, especially the 80s. And the last song on my playlist is, oddly enough, a Christmas song by Bon Jovi where he tells us, “I wish Every day would be like Christmas .”I don’t think that song would be as impactful if he said, “I wish things would go back to normal.”
Most of us have some thing that we especially like about the Christmas season, whether it’s the food, the lights, the music, or whatever. But what we all love, universally, about Christmas is what we call “The Christmas Spirit .”It makes the whole world different during Christmas, and it makes you just…feel good. That Christmas spirit is the joyful atmosphere all around us, the feeling of good cheer and benevolence that seems to characterize people a little more during Christmastime. We’re a little more patient, a little more kind, a little more generous, and a little more attentive to the poor, the homeless, or the hungry. Man! I wish every day could be like Christmas.
But…that’s how it’s supposed to be!
That Christmas Spirit is a Christian Spirit; it’s the heart, soul, and spirit of Christianity, and it’s supposed to characterize the lives of those who follow Jesus. Every day is supposed to be like the thing we love most about Christmas—the good will we have toward others, the joy we carry in our hearts, and the generous spirit we have toward others—even strangers or the less fortunate. Why does this stand out at Christmas, and why does it seem to end once the Christmas trees come down?
Historically Christmas was actually a minor holiday in the Church for hundreds of years. The major holiday in the Church calendar was—and technically is still—Easter, not Christmas. With Christmas being barely a blip on the Catholic radar, there was no such thing as “The Christmas Spirit” to serve as an inspiration to boost our good cheer, joy, and generosity as it tends to do today. And yet do you know how Christians in the early Church were recognized by their pagan peers and persecutors? By our love for others. By our joy, generosity, and compassion. “
One of the early Fathers of the Church, Tertullian, wrote:
It is mainly the deeds of such noble love that lead many to identify us. ‘See how they love one another!’ they say. For they themselves (the non-Christians) are animated by mutual hate [not by love]. ‘How they are ready even to die for one another,’ they say. For they themselves will sooner put others to death” (The Apology, Chapter 39).
What Tertullian recognized is in keeping with something Our Lord tells us in the Gospel “You will know a tree by the fruit it bears.” By seeing the fruits of our faith, the godless world knew that we were Christian.
Christmas brings out the best of our character—Love, joy, patience, generosity, compassion, and good will. But that is exactly how we’re supposed to live our lives every day. It isn’t supposed to end after New Year’s Day.
I wish every day would be like Christmas. Don’t you? Don’t you wish that the world around us was so full of joy, so full of good will, so full of generosity, and patience all year round? It can happen. It’s how the Christian world used to be. Even our persecutors saw that, and many of them envied and admired us for it. The world can be that way again by living and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether by our words or by our actions and the way we live our lives. If we live the change we want to see in the world, we will manifest God’s glory in the world. What do you want the world to be like? Not just for you but for your children. What do you want the world to be? Do you want the world to be “like Christmas” every day? Then live the change you want to see. Christianity literally changed the world more than once in the history of the Church. It didn’t change the world by magic or even by force or by the rule of law. Christianity changed the world through how Christians lived the Gospel message. The sense of good will, good cheer, and generosity that we generally only see in the world around Christmas used to be—and was always intended to be—the game changer that brought souls, families, households, communities, and whole countries to God through Jesus Christ. And it starts as it has always started, by how individuals choose to live their lives.
Do you wish every day could be like Christmas? Then make it happen. Live your life like it’s Christmas every day. I don’t mean with decorations and consumerism, but with good will, good cheer, joy, generosity, and all those other virtuous personality characteristics that we demonstrate every Christmas time. You literally have the power to change the world. Go out and do it. God wills it.
Merry Christmas…all year. Happy New Year, every day. And may God be with you always.