Christmas is one of the most important days of the Church year, second only to Easter itself. It is the feast of the Incarnation, the feast of God taking on human flesh. It is a uniquely Christian teaching, that God chose to become one of us.
The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him; that he was born to die for us.
CHRISTMAS PRACTICES & DEVOTIONS
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree is a popular symbol of the liturgical season of Christmas and a tradition in many Christian homes. The evergreen of the tree reminds us of God’s promise of eternal life. The shape of the tree as a triangle reminds us that our one God is a trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The lights of the tree call to mind that Jesus is the Light of the World whose birth has scattered the darkness of sin and death forever.
The Nativity Scene
During Advent, the nativity scene may have been prepared in a place of honour, yet remaining empty f the figurines. Now on Christmas Eve, you gather as a family and place the figures in crèche remembering the significance of Christ’s birth to each of them as you do.
St. Francis of Assisi began the tradition of the nativity scene or crèche. Instead of figurines, St. Francis would use people in the community to play the parts of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the shepherds, as well as live animals. Eight hundred years later, Christians everywhere keep this tradition alive by reconstructing the scene of our Saviour’s birth in their homes, places of work, schools and churches.
It is traditional to exchange Christmas gifts with family and friends as a way to honour God the Father’s gift of his only Son to the world. Having received the gift of Christ, we naturally want to pass that gift along to our loved ones. Gift giving also remembers the gifts of the Magi who presented gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Lord representing the three-fold offices of the Messiah as priest, prophet and king.
A branch (Jeremiah 23.5) or large plant (Isaiah 11.1) is decorated with symbols of Christ’s ancestors. As each is prepared and hung, the story of this person is told. Each member of the family can prepare the symbol and the biography of this person and share it as the symbol is hung upon the tree. On Christmas Eve, a symbol for the Christ Child is placed on the tree as the story of his birth is read aloud.
Special Liturgical Celebrations during the Christmas Season
The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph
The Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God
The Epiphany of the Lord
The Baptism of the Lord