Whatever happened to quiet? Whatever happened to slow? Whatever happened to the beauty of the ordinary? Whatever happened to plain and simple? Whatever happened to tranquility?
Hear now the Christmas meditations of Cardinal John Henry Newman:
It's Christmas morning as I write this. I noticed while watching football on TV yesterday that there's some sort of "reality" show out there that features competition for the most grandiose Christmas decorations. Who can deck their house with more lights, synced to holiday music, able to be seen from space, etc. That, in a nutshell, is what Christmas in America seems to have become.
I think you'll find that as our culture drifts further and further from its Christiandom moorings, its celebration of some sort of Secularized Christmas will become more and more tricked up with gaudy display, all designed to present you with one and only one choice: that is, the choice between the myth of salvation by acquisition, or the perceived humiliation of not having all that your neighbors have. To signal to the world that you're in the game, you might want to add that 20-feet high blow-up Rudolph to your front yard seasonal display.
But of course, nothing could be more unChristmas than all that. [I could go on my usual rant against commercialism here, and how it is ultimately dehumanizing us all, but I'll try to keep that in check.] It's as if we were all born into some giant fun house at the carnival, and don't even realize that out beyond the colored lights and the amped-up music there remains the real world. Or at the least the possibility of the real. But who even cares anymore?
Christmas is about humility. It is to shepherds that the angels come--mere boys--not to kings or corporate CEOs. And if you want to understand humility, just look at Mary, the mother of Jesus. You'll find her story in the first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. Or look to Jesus. The first chapter of the Gospel according to John might help here, or even Paul's tribute to Jesus, at the start of the 2nd chapter of his Letter to the Philippians.
Let me put it to you this way: the world does not want you to be at peace. So it will do all it can to keep you from hearing the gentle rap at your door when the Prince of Peace comes calling. This culture of go-getting, of brashness and self-promotion, of keeping up with the neighbors and putting on a good show, is killing us. It's frying our spiritual nerve endings, numbing our senses, keeping us trapped in the funhouse. But off in the night there shines a star, and down below, forced to shelter in a stable, a young maiden is giving birth to a child. That child will rattle the foundations of empire by going to a Cross. Praise Him!