Christmas is a time for renewal
If any month is a candidate for being the one in which Canadian students take a sharp turn toward insanity, it is certainly December. Students not only have Christmas gift-shopping on their minds but they also have the inescapable reality of exams. Despite the business of the month, I heartily encourage my fellow students to make an effort to improve themselves for the New Year.
In Christianity, Christmas marks the birth of Jesus, which is a new birth for humanity as the Saviour departs from the womb of his Blessed Mother Mary so that people could finally see him.
In the Catholic Church, Christmas is preceded by a four-week season of Advent, in which people prepare for Christmas through prayer and repentance. I am aware that many of the people reading this are not Christian, or perhaps even identify with any religious tradition. Nonetheless, I think that the message of Christmas can still be beneficial for non-Christians.
In the Christmas story there is a profound lesson in humility. Not only was Mary quite humble in accepting the vocation of motherhood, but in God the Son humbling himself to become incarnate and eventually born in a stable in Bethlehem. He “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men and in habit found as a man” (Philippians 2:7).
Naturally, this seems like an insane proposition. It seems quite against God’s own interests to become a human being seeing as he could remain in heaven and not take on perishable flesh. Then again, humility seems quite against our own interests to be humble since it means we cannot gain prestige through self-promotion or enjoy ourselves as much as we might like to.
Yet it seems that humility allows us to undergo a kind of growth — moral growth. When we cease to be self-absorbed, we can look toward caring for others. I rather enjoy how G. K. Chesterton put it: “Alice must grow small if she is to be Alice in Wonderland.”
Christmas time should therefore be a reflection on when we have failed to be humble. We can call to mind times we have allowed pride to run our lives, preventing us from acknowledging our own flaws or the virtues of others. Then, with the New Year approaching, we should try to live out lives of humility.
Even more than humility, I think that love is the message of Christmas. Christians believe that God came into this world out of loving compassion for a fallen humanity. Jesus Christ becoming visible for all to see, no longer concealed in his mother’s womb, so that he can dwell with us out of love.
Remarking on the Christian understanding of love (charity), Chesterton said, “Christianity came in here … startlingly with a sword and clove one thing from another. It divided the crime from the criminal. The criminal we must forgive unto 77 times. The crime we must not forgive at all.”
This reminds me of how important it is to forgive others, since it means that we can put aside past conflicts and live in peace with others. Christmas should be a time to put old grudges behind us and experience joy in our lives. Joy, as at the birth of a child.
Not only should we forgive others, but we should also seek the forgiveness of others.
When I was in high school, I made some rather nasty remarks to someone very dear to myself, causing quite a schism to take place in our relationship. I have not spoken to her since and it has bothered me terribly. I intend on using the Christmas season to reach out to her and ask for her forgiveness in the hope of restoring friendship.
I know many of you have done things that you regret to your family and friends, because we are human — we do evil things. I would like to encourage those of you burdened down by your faults to reach out to those you have hurt and apologize to them. Free yourselves from the burden and show to those people who have seen your evil side that you truly love them.
Christmas is a time of renewal, for us to reflect on our faults and strive to do better. We all fall short and need to constantly improve in virtue. My wish is that you take the opportunity to do so this Christmas.