Celebrating Christ at Christmas

| December 16, 2016 | 0 Comments
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Fr. John Catoir, Catholic News Service columnist

Fr. John Catoir
Catholic News Service

As we rejoice in the Lord’s birth this Christmas, it is important to remember that faith in the incarnation of Jesus Christ is an essential part of the Catholic Church’s teachings: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). Jesus came as a light into the world, to dispel the darkness and to give us new life (Jn 8:12). He gave up his life to bring salvation, love and joy to the human race.

The doctrine of the Incarnation, for Catholics, is the very basis of our Christmas celebration. It teaches us that each day we grow from darkness into the wonderful light of Christ.

As we carry his light within us, we show it by our love. We demonstrate how our beliefs influence our lives. We witness to Christ by our joys, our generosity and by the kindness we show others; especially by the way we love our families, friends and neighbors. Christmas gift-giving and generosity is a sign of Christ living in us.

So, how did Santa Claus become the dominant symbol of Christmas? The name Santa Claus morphed from legends of the great St. Nicholas of Myra, who was well-known for his extraordinary charity. When Dutch settlers came to America, they brought with them their great love of “Sint Niklass,” which later became “Santa Claus.”

St. Nicholas was born in the fourth century, in Lycia, a province in Asia Minor, which was then part of Greece. Today, Lycia is on the southern coast of Turkey. St. Nicholas’ parents died while he was young, leaving him a vast fortune. Nicholas might very well have been drawn to the words of Jesus, “Sell what you own and give to to the poor” (Mt 19:21).

For he was so moved that he donated his entire inheritance to assist the needy, the sick and the suffering, and then dedicated his life to God. He rose to become the bishop of Myra and was imprisoned during the Roman persecutions.

The legend of St. Nicholas grew steadily over the centuries and eventually came to be associated with gift-giving, and transformed into the fictional, secular character named Santa Claus. While we all enjoy the spirit behind Santa Claus, we must not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas: our celebration of Christ’s birth.

Jesus said that he came to bring joy. Christmas is a season of great joy, light and new life. I wish you a Merry Christmas, with all my heart.

Category: Guest columns

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