Year of Faith highlights Christmas’ spiritual renewal despite materialistic focus

December 11, 2012

HOUSTON — Look around and there are glimpses everywhere: Merry Xmas, Happy Holidays and Season Greetings.

In this modern world — where shopping can overshadow spiritual growth and consumerism can compete with faith — it is critical for Catholics to renew their relationship with Christ, keeping Him at the center of this season’s celebration.

Without devotion, Catholics face the difficult task of evangelism, spreading the word of Christ’s birth to a society entrenched in political correctness or materialistic desire, which removes the true meaning behind Christmas so that it appeals to a wider audience.

“Why is it often called a holiday instead of Christmas? It is called a holiday to make Christmas a non-religious event and that has to do with the political aspect of society,” said Father Francis Asomkase, SSJ, pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in McNair.

“It is a good thing to be inclusive of everyone, but not to the extent of eliminating what this time is set aside for,” he added. “When you say this is a holiday, you make it a celebration without substance and that is a danger.”

Father Asomkase pointed out that all Christians recognize the significance of Christmas because they believe Christ was born as a human being for the good of the human race.

Protecting that message, however, has become difficult these days. Many businesses, government venues, schools and even shopping outlets erase any reference to Christ during the holidays.

There are few public Nativity scenes that display Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in a manger, and even fewer greeting cards that highlight God’s only son, a Savior who was born. Instead, Santa Claus, decorations and gifts take center stage.

Even a Christmas season debate between Church and state made national news last December when a “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner stirred controversy in Pitman, N.J.

In that case, some residents believed the banner, hung by the Knights of Columbus, was in violation of the Constitution. They contacted the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Wisconsin, which promotes the separation of Church and state.

Ultimately, the group was told the banner was hung on private, not public, property and therefore was not in violation of the constitution.

Many public entities continue to shy away from such displays, but instead host festivals, or holiday parades and concerts often highlighted with Christmas trees and St. Nick.

Catholics, however, cannot give way to the temptation. In fact, Catholics must live as Christ lives. To do so, they must look within, tapping into their own faithfulness in hopes of changing what the holiday has come to represent.

“As Catholics, we have to celebrate Christmas for what it truly is and that is the birth of our Savior,” Father Asomkase said. “And when we do that with a great sense of reverence and conviction and allow it to transform us, that is noticeable in our communities and they start to believe in us and what we are doing.”

“And with that comes evangelization,” he added.

Father Dat Hoang, vocation director at the office of vocation with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, agreed, saying that the world has become more secularized.

Yet he also points out that there are many who, despite the drive of consumerism and pressures related to the secular season, are devoted to keeping Christ at the center of the holidays.

“I know of a lot of families who are cutting down on gifts so they can do more sharing with those who are in need,” Father Hoang said. “They remember that God has given us the most precious gift of His son.”

During this Year of Faith, it is even more critical for Catholics to focus on their own hearts, families and develop a new appreciation of Christ and His love.
“That is why, during this Year of Faith, the Holy Father invites us to renew ourselves first so that we may evangelize to others with our own renewal,” Hoang said.

“We should be able to integrate the gift of faith and allow God’s grace to permeate the very fabric of our lives,” he added. “That is how we become living witnesses of Christ to the world, especially during Christmas.”