Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Keeping A Balance At Christmas

By DEACON ANTONIUS ANUGERAH, Commentary | Published December 23, 2010

Christmas season in this country is different from what I used to know back in my home country when I was growing up. It is more festive here: more lights glittering, more shopping and spending, more secular and more commercialized.

It is more “joyful” here, too, even though not all the joy is for the reason that it should be.

People start the season right on the day after Thanksgiving Day with Black Friday sales. To some, Christmas season even begins on the day after Halloween. They skip Advent and forget Epiphany.

Santa Claus appears as the main figure of the season—the symbol of joy and presents. The story of Santa Claus with his red-nosed Rudolph coming from the North Pole and down through the chimney seems to be more believable than the story of the Nativity of Jesus. No mention of Jesus comes until one week before December 25 or just the night before, and it’s gone the day after because a New Year’s party is coming up. Midnight Mass becomes less and less popular—some parishes even do away with it.

People on the street greet each other by saying, “Happy Holidays” because they are not sure whether this is the season of Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Eid-al-Fitr (the last day of Ramadan). Some people even celebrate “ALL” in the name of solidarity and tolerance.

It is different between there where I grew up and here, or even then and now.

I long for the Christmas season I used to know … a season where the story of John the Baptist, Joseph, Mary is told not just in Scripture readings during Masses, but in Christian homes and communities as part of the tradition of the Advent season … a tradition where Advent and Epiphany are important parts of the joyful season of Christmas. A season when the story of the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary with the Good News, the story of John the Baptist calling us to repent and make way for the Messiah, the story of the Nativity of the baby Savior in a manger in Bethlehem, the story of Epiphany and the Magi are told in every Christian home as part of the tradition. A season where the Christmas tree remains bare until the night before Christmas Day, where the manger is the main center of the decoration, the center of the Gift. Not boxed presents of toys, jewelry, tools, or electronics. I long for a Christmas Eve that is solemn and full of anticipation of the newborn baby Jesus on Christmas Day.

I long for Christmas where Jesus is the center of the celebration … Christmas where all the gift giving is the expression of joyful hearts and thanksgiving for the Savior born.

I have to admit that I have come to enjoy and take part in the Santa Claus and gift-giving tradition.

Now that I have been here long enough, perhaps I have come to accept it, as it is … this is my home country now, this is Christmas here and now.

So like Santa Claus, I say to ya’ll, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

However, through the years I still keep a balance—through prayer, charity, confession—to discern and contemplate the Christian spiritual aspect and the true meaning of Christmas: It’s a time of joy, time of sharing and time of thanksgiving for the gift of life in Jesus Christ.

Deacon Antonius Anugerah was born and raised in East Java, Indonesia. He came to Atlanta in 1982. He was ordained a deacon in 2008 and serves at Our Lady of the Assumption, mainly for the Indonesian community (Komunitas Katolik Indonesia).