Monday, December 28, 2009

Compliment Christ. Don't compliment the season.

In my many Christmas visits and in my meeting many people who come for Mass or leave the church after Mass, I hear this very common yet, rather disturbing greeting of ‘Compliments of the Season'. I have heard it from many people, and I must say that more and more, through the years, it rankles my Christian sensitivities.

When I ask people, and it is usually to Christians whom I know for sure are followers of Christ, why they use this phrase to greet one another, their reply is often “it’s only on Christmas day that we greet with Merry Christmas, and from Boxing Day onwards, it’s Compliments of the Season”. Now where did they get this idea from? Their teachers in school during 'Colonial days'? Could it be that many are not aware that liturgically, we are still in the season of Christmas right up till the Baptism of the Lord? Could it be that they want to be PC (Politically Correct) and not offend anyone by mentioning Christ and appear to be evangelical in their speech? My suspicion is that it is a strange combination of all of the above.

Could we be unthinkingly drawn into the disease that is currently sweeping over North America, where Christ is deliberately left out of Christmas? Anywhere you go in North America these days, you will be able to hear a very ‘safe’ greeting of “happy holidays” because of a more and more diverse population, where not everyone celebrates Christmas, but everyone enjoys the holidays. I suppose, if you bring that mentality to Singapore, we are a diverse population, a ‘melting pot’ of cultures, and not everyone is a Christian. But my being disturbed by this usage is not by the non-Christians, but by Christians.

Singaporean Catholics tend to be very shy when it comes to sharing their faith with others. While I certainly don’t recommend them to stand on street corners to should scripture passages to strangers, I do try to persuade and encourage all to try to take baby steps in being evangelical. Inserting Christ into your greetings during the entire Christmastide is a simple way of bringing Christ into your conversations, especially when your friends and business associates ask you the questions “but isn’t Christmas over?”

I hope that the people who read this blog entry will begin to take ownership of their Christian faith and heritage that they have been blessed with, and also begin to omit from their vocabulary the generic greetings of either Happy Holidays or Compliments of the Season, and truly bring Christ back at Christmas. At the first Christmas, there was no room for Christ at the inn. Could we be also leaving him with just as little room now, 2000 years later? If Christ is no longer the reason we are joyful at Christmas, there will be very little to compliment us as disciples of the Lord, will there?

God love you, and blessed and holy Christmas to all.

16 comments:

  1. Thank you Father for reminding us what Christ Mass is all about. I came across this quote this Christmas which warmed my heart.

    This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ. - Frank McKibben

    A blessed and holy Christmas to you too, Father. May we always be awed with this wondrous gift.

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  2. Blessed Christmas Father!

    Why does the Christmas season end on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and not on the Epiphany? I was queried by a child and I could not give a credible answer :(

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  3. Yes, we are leaving Jesus with just as little room or worse, no room at all 2000 years later. I see TV networks throwing parties with the theme "Christmas Event Celebration" but it was in celebration of the achievements of individuals or the awards garnered by the network for that year. A survey conducted report on the high percentage of young girls losing their virginity on Christmas eve parties due to the "romantic" mood and ambiance. God has been abused not only at the Cross but also at this birth.

    Jack

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  4. I'd like to answer the question posed by FHM, who wrote before Jack did.

    Dear FHM,

    The short answer to your question is this – it is stated in the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Divine Office, where it is noted after we finish the evening prayer II of The Baptism of the Lord, The end of Christmastide.

    But why is this so? It is actually very much a reason that is based on calendar calculations than anything theological. You see, the Christmas season runs from evening prayer I of Christmas right until the time when Ordinary Time is observed. Conversely, when Ordinary Time begins is determined by when Christmastide ends. You may well argue that while it is easily observable that Epiphany has strong Christmas links, the Baptism of the Lord does not. After all, wasn’t he baptized long after he was born?

    Perhaps this is where we need to truly understand the whole point of Christmas, where it is a great celebration of God’s giving of himself to us. He didn’t give himself to us only when he was born. It was a constant giving, a progressive giving, and there was a concrete time when he came into our world (his nativity), but there was also a moment in time when his whole life was declared as a gift back to God “in whom I am well pleased”. The baptism of the Lord marks for him and us, that momentous start of his mission, where after being acknowledged and blessed by the Father, he is sent ‘by the Spirit’ into the wilderness for a prolonged period (the proverbial 40 days). I believe that this is a very strong reason why we should include the Baptism of the Lord inside of Christmastide.

    But of course, if it may be far too ‘cheem’ or complicated to appreciate the deeper significance of this connection, one can just rely on the Church’s arrangement of the Liturgical calendar, and say “because it says so in the General Norms of the Liturgical Year”.

    God bless you for asking this

    Fr Luke

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  5. Dear Father

    I really appreciate you taking the time to explain this so clearly. Christmas holds a deeper meaning for me now.

    Thank you & God bless!

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  6. Christ is the reason for my life,and through your guidance,Fr Luke, I am beginning to live that gift."Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year".Thank you and God Bless.

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  7. Re yr explanation on " His whole life..a gift back to God ...sent by the Spirit into the wilderness" as reason for including His Baptism into Christmastide is both - beautiful & full of hope coz - for we then can "gift" Him our 'light' as well as our 'darkness' or shadow , our talents as well as our baseness, our laughter & our tears....to accept us in our totality ( sinner & saint) calls for an immutable love - this is Christmas for me , my reason to rejoice Thks Fr.

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  8. In our church, most people say Blessed Christmas or Merry Christmas.

    In the secular world, it is only polite to say Seasons Greetings. We live in a multi-religious and multi-cultural society so we do not want to force people to acknowledge a Messiah (Christ) they do not believe in. Most of us Christians would not feel comfortable being asked to burn joss sticks or bow before an altar. Let's give our non-Christian fellow Singaporeans and foreign talent the same kind of respect.

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  9. Every day is "merry christmas" if our heart is filled with Jesus, if we know the meaning of giving selflessly, loving unconditionally, walking with the eyes of faith, living in joy, peace and hope that only God alone can give in this seemingly hopeless world. Wishing you Jesus in your heart always and may the New Year bring you abundant love, hope, joy, peace and wisdom. Courage to be different just like Jesus. God bless you, my dear friend. colour code - turquoise

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  10. Response to Paul.

    My non-Christian colleagues, even Muslims, wish me "Merry Christmas". What should I reply to them? Anybody?

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  11. Dearest Father Luke,

    I would like to wish you a Merry Berry Blessed Christmas & Happy New Year
    filled with loads of Joy, Love, Peace, Hope & Miracles!!! Continue to share Christ
    with us and celebrate mass with so much passion & joy like you always Father..
    May the peace of our Good Lord be with you always! Take care & God bless.

    Agape,
    Jacintha

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  12. Hi Father! So glad that you've set up a blog. Miss your homilies at IHM. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.

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  13. hi father Luke,

    A Belated x'mas and a blessed new year to you!
    From my observation of the s'pore catholic as to why they tend to shy away from expressing their faith to others in public.. one reason they could be "paiseh" to show to others. the other they either do not know or bother at all or not wanting to look "holy" and people ask abt yr catholic faith and you are "stunned" don't know what to say!!
    that's why we can learn much more form our other Christian brethens. While we may not be quoting "verses" from the bible abt believeing in christianity that much, at least we can show our faith by by making the sign of the cross..b4 every meal or begining of a short prayer.

    That's nothing wrong with that.. come on s'pore catholics.. you can do much more to express our faith. It's is thru our actions that others beging to see what catholicism is abt. In fact the making the sign of a cross is what we believe in .. God.. and also act as a short intro to others to catholicism.

    God Bless

    george

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  14. Response to Augustine Chen:A sincere!"Thank You",
    & a Blessing,"God Be With You",will be great.
    Blessed Christmas and a Great New year to you, Augustine Chen.

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  15. Hi Fr, I would like to add that there's another written greeting that Christians should not be encouraged to use. Some may not realise the deviation since it has been so widely and frequently used by everyone everywhere. It may seem convenient to use the shortened version but if one is to examine it closely, by using "X'mas" instead of "Christmas", it is axing out "Christ". So if there is no Christ, then there is no Christmas for all. :))

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  16. Very well put, Mel. Unfortunately in this day and age of SMS and shortforms, a lot of meaning in things that we do get lost in 'translation', if that is the phrase to use here. Blessed Christmastide!

    Fr Luke

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