Christmas Without Christ Is Just An Empty Tradition

by Advent and Christmas, Liturgical Seasons, Mass, Self-Knowledge

In this short animated film, urban poet, Rael James Mason, explores what Christmas is all about trying to help people think through the message of Christmas. The basic idea is: Christmas without Christ is just any empty tradition. The ironic thing is that the more the season is emptied of its authentic meaning, the more society must strive to inject superficial glamor and shine.

Perhaps there is nothing more distasteful, more depressing than when something beautiful, original, and mysterious is transformed into something common, manufactured, and understandable.

The video’s image of putting Jesus into our pocket or fitting him into a box is effectively eloquent, and it reflects not only the crisis of our culture’s compression of Christmas but the crisis of our culture in general: the refusal to be questioned.

Christmas time is a time in which we are called to huddle around the simplicity of a manger– quite symbolic of the simplicity of the Eucharist– and remember a unique event in our history: the event of Christ’s coming. We are called to remember in the original sense of the Latin term recordari: re- meaning to repeat or go back to repeatedly; cor– the heart. We are called to place our interior gaze on the event of our salvation and place this event in our heart, letting it dwell there.

In reflecting up the event of the Nativity, the birth of Christ, we can’t help but be questioned, questioned about everything. We aren’t considering a typical event, we are considering the event of all events: our life, our salvation, our happiness, our fulfillment, our existence depends on this event! It is both remarkably beautiful and shockingly pretentious. But none of this can be lived if we aren’t willing to pose the question: what is the meaning of my life? None of this will engage you on a deep level if you aren’t willing put your life on the line.

Christmas lived from the “balcony” is nothing but a spectacle like any other. 

You see, Christ, in becoming man, didn’t do so just so we could watch as observers. He is the “Way” and reveals to us how we also must live. The dynamic of his Incarnation is the dynamic of becoming small, vulnerable, fragile so as to go and speak to those who are in need of love and salvation. Jesus’ entire existence was aimed at stepping into the shoes of the other, placing himself on the same level, so as to reveal the love of the Father and as such elevate them to a higher level of living, inviting them to become sons and daughters of God. This, if we continue to read the Gospel, lead to his death; and he knew this from the beginning. The wood of the manger cannot be separated from the wood of the cross.

When we remember this, when we allow this to enter and dwell in our hearts, we must allow ourselves to be profoundly questioned! Christ came! But His coming was also an invitation for us to follow him. His life must be the paradigm of our own. His way of existing, of living, of becoming small and vulnerable so as to love, and of dying must become our own. Is this how we live? How his Coming truly changed our way of treating others, our life, our heart? This is the message of Christmas!

To put things simply, the point of Advent and Christmas is conversion. The songs, the feasts, the prayers, the traditions, all of it has one end: to remind us that Christ is our savior and that He called us to follow him, to live as He lived.

Putting Christ in a box and enclosing the feast of His coming within the superficiality of a culturally hollowed holiday is certainly a more comfortable way of “celebrating” this season. It has nothing, however, to do with Christmas.

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