“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Is 9:2)
Christmas is right on top of us. Twenty to thirty years ago the television networks would have multiple showings of “A Christmas Carol” (several versions), “Miracle on 34th Street,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” and several others. A quick search for “Christmas” on the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com), which also gives options for viewing, doesn’t even list any version of “A Christmas Carol” in the top ten, and my favorite version starring George C. Scott is 18th on the list. The top listing is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” hardly a movie about the spirit of the coming of Christ, turning away from materialism and self-seeking, and a renewal of our lives. Sadly, however, when you look to find out where you can watch any of these classics, they are not being shown on any of the regular networks and on only a few subscription or pay per view channels.
For that is what Christmas is, a time for renewal; renewal and conversion. This is what Dickens’s classical story is all about. It is also a time for reflection; reflection on our lives and, in particular, the past year. Most of us around the world, regardless of our backgrounds, are at least basically familiar with the Christmas story of God foregoing all his power and glory and coming to earth as a baby. Whether you are a Christian or any other faith or even agnostic, we need to review our past, just like the Christmas Spirits did for Scrooge, and then look to the future.
A new year will soon be upon us. And while the changing of the years is somewhat arbitrary, many things change as we add another number to the calendar. The seasons change, much of life goes dormant (although we cannot let our lives go dormant), new opportunities arise, and even changes occur in governments. Many people recognize this by trying to resolve to make changes for the new year. Thus, we recognize that there are things in our lives, that we have done or failed to do, that we want to change or perhaps do better in the coming year.
As Scrooge found out, this is what the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, in the Word incarnate, the baby Jesus, is all about. Calling us to a new beginning. Reconcile our lives with God and with our fellow men.
For those who don’t believe in God, take a look at your lives without Him. How is that working for you? Do you sometimes feel as if you are living in darkness? A large percentage of Americans feel that the country is heading in the wrong direction. At the same time, Pew Research tells us that American’s participation in religion is declining and has been for some time. Could there be a correlation? Probably a greater correlation than that of SUVs with climate change. All the bitterness and hate running around the world is because we have pushed God away from us. He is calling you always, but especially at this time of year. Don’t be afraid to turn to Him. Some of the best-known defenders of faith started out as atheists. Take C.S. Lewis, for example. He started out as an atheist and even dabbled in magic, yet all of his works are filled with faith and examples of God and good spirits working in our lives and against evil (even his space trilogy). And consider this, secular research firms, such as Pew Research, continually find that religiously affiliated people are, in general, more stable, more involved civically (i.e., with their “neighbors”), and tend to live longer.
Face it, you will never be completely happy in this world. Momentary pleasures will always fade. Only God can make us happy forever. Without God there is no happiness. That is what hell is, the absence of God. As such, it is never-ending sorrow, pain, and misery. Like Pascal’s wager, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain in believing in God (and trying to do His will), even if He doesn’t exist. However, if God is real (and He is) you lose everything by not believing and following Him. To paraphrase Saint Augustine, he who has God, has everything, and he who has everything has nothing without God. As for doing God’s will, as Scrooge found out, it means being kind to others and putting them before yourself. For this is a sign of love, giving up something yourself for the benefit of others. It’s a little bit of sacrifice and sacrifice is a sign of love. As I have said before, “There is no sacrifice without love, and there is no love without sacrifice.” And as the spirits made evident, conversion extended Scrooge’s life.
One problem that many people have is that they don’t want to believe that evil exists in the world and can be seen just about everywhere. The current woke culture wants to feel justified in doing whatever they want and put personal pleasure first. They even try to put forth the idea that they are being the virtuous ones. “Broadmindedness, when it means indifference to right and wrong, eventually ends up in a hatred of what is right.” Bishop Fulton Sheen. As Elon Musk said, “Wokeness gives mean people a shield to be mean and cruel, armoured in false virtue.”
“Satan’s primary lie that deceives humanity, keeps it in spiritual infancy and causes more suffering than anything else, is the lie that selfishness is fun and unselfishness is not.” Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics.
This is a time for putting yourself out for the sake of others, forsaking selfishness. “Truly, selfishness is the death of love.” (Rev. Bede Naegele, Minute Meditations for each Day)
Christmas is an opportunity for us to encounter God. We encounter God in our fellow man, in the world, and in the events around us. If these events are not good, if they reflect evil, they are not from God. Intolerance in the name of tolerance is actually hate, not love. Condoning sin is not a sign of love, for it reinforces people’s breaking from God and His will. So, let’s plan on meeting Jesus in the babe in the manger and resolving to change our path and returning to “One Nation, Under God.”
“Of course, the wise men went home by a different route; no one meets Christ and remains the same.” Fulton J. Sheen
Published on The Patriot Post, December 23, 2022