Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen And Heard (December 23, 2010)

By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published December 23, 2010  | En Español

The celebration of the Christmas Mystery is an annual opportunity for all of us to recall many cherished moments from our own personal pasts. We all have memories of Christmases that we knew from the past, especially the ones that we experienced when we were youngsters, and those memories always seem to be dominant in how we now understand the great event of God becoming Man in Christ.

We recall the sights, sounds and smells of our childhood Christmases. We tend to expect those recollections to define what Christmas means to us today. Yet we all know that each year of life brings new changes and while childhood memories are precious to all of us, we all have grown up and added to those memories when celebrating the gift of the Christ Child.

We have all welcomed new members into our lives and families and therefore incorporated them into our current Christmas observances. We have also released some of our loved ones into the fullness of God’s kingdom. Traditions have changed, and some of those changes have added to the splendor of Christmas while others have sought to diminish the religious nature of this feast. We have all witnessed the rise (and the fortunate fall) of the aluminum Christmas tree and the color wheel. We have endured the slow but relentless secularization of a religious holiday all in the name of inclusivity and the incessant demands for political correctness.

But there are other favorable changes that we have embraced in our celebration of Christmas. Because of the interplay and the contact of the many different cultures of this great nation, we have appended the religious observances of other people to what Christmas now means for all of us. We have welcomed, for example, the celebration of the Mexican Posada and the Filipino observance of Simbang Gabi, and the Polish tradition of sharing Oplatek, which are other Christian customs from these cultures that highlight the meaning of Christmas. Because we are such a multicultural family in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, each of these traditions along with many others help not just the ethnic communities from which they originate but all of us to see more deeply into the spirit and meaning of this feast.

Our Christmases have changed from those that we might recall from our youth. Some of those changes are fortunate, and others are quite regrettable. As we pass from childhood to adulthood, we should set aside many of the fables, characters and the fairytales that made Christmas charming without abandoning the heart of this great feast—that God has become True Man in Christ. We may no longer believe in Santa Claus or be able to indulge recklessly in all of the Christmas foods that we once did—now for reasons of waistlines and health.

We may not accept as fact the childhood images that once defined this season for us in our youth, but we must not lose sight of the Mystery of God’s entry into human history that we observe with this feast.

Adding new customs, welcoming new friends and family members, discovering ethnic traditions, and letting go of childhood fables may well change Christmas for all of us, but in the midst of those changes, let us not neglect the heart of this great time of year: God has chosen to become one of us out of love for us. Let us not throw the Baby out with those customs that are nonessential and peripheral to the Truth that this Infant came to establish.

Merry Christmas, my dearest brothers and sisters in Christ. May the year 2011 be filled with joy, health and happiness for all of you and your loved ones.