In the words of Matthew Kelly, there is genius in Catholicism.
Catholicism recognizes that Christmas is such an incredible celebration that it throws an eight day party. The miracle and mystery of the Incarnation had been prophesied for generations. The Creator of heaven and earth left the first to inhabit the latter. Known as the Octave of Christmas, the period of time from Christmas through the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1) is an extension of Christmas. Every day throughout the octave of Christmas "reflects back on the Nativity, not just the birth of Christ but the impact, the reality of the birth".
Our great Mother Church follows the Solemnity of Christmas with a series of feast days that move us out of the manger and into the journey of faith.
December 26 marks the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. This reminds us about the cost of discipleship. We move out of the "serenity" of the manger scene and into the harsh reality of being a Christian.
December 27 was the Feast of St. John, Apostle and evangelist. St. John, the beloved apostle, wasn't beloved because of anything he did. Instead, he was beloved which allowed him to do the things he did - take Mary in as his own mother and compose one of the Gospels and the Book of Revelation.
Today, December 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents, once again reminds us that the "peace" of the stable was juxtaposed with danger and cruelty. Joseph and Mary, on the tail end of an exhausting journey to Bethlehem, flee to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath. While Jesus was spared in this instance, we know that many more innocent children lost their lives to the evil of the world.
December 29 is the feast of St. Thomas Becket, another martyr, another reminder of the cost of following Jesus.
We celebrate the feast of the Holy Family on December 30. Jesus came into the world as a baby. Joseph and Mary undoubtedly experienced the same challenges faced by all families. They serve as a model and example of the importance of family in the development of faith.
December 31 is the feast of Pope St. Sylvester I, the Pope who supported the Council of Nicea in 325 that proclaimed Jesus as both fully human and fully divine - giving the mystery of the Incarnation even that much more weight.
Finally, on the eighth day of Christmas, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. On this high feast we are once again reminded of Mary's monumental "yes" that changed the world.
As we reach the half-way point of Christmas (4 days in), let us continue to find joy in the Incarnation. Let us continue to recognize that Christmas is more than a day. Let us continue to sing, dance, visit with family and friends and pray. Despite the challenges of discipleship, may Christmas remind us that the world, because of His entry into it, is forever changed.
For to me, Christmas isn't about a man dressed in red.
It's about a baby who's story is meant to be read.
It's not about the children all nestled in their beds.
It's about a family with no place to rest their heads.
To me, Christmas isn't about the presents under the tree.
It's about His presence and what He means to me.
It's about present-less Whos still singing with glee.
It's about praising God and time with family.
Silent night? No crying He makes?
Christmas is about the flesh on which our God takes.
It's a travel-worn family, giving birth in a stable.
It's about shepherds and wise men coming to Him, giving gifts as they're able.
The picture we have of this holy of days.
Is not quite the picture I think Christmas conveys.
The Greatest Story Ever Told and yet do you hear what I hear?
Our Savior was born, choirs of angels were there.
Joy came to the world, a new star shone bright.
We should seek after Him with all of our might.
The celebration's not over, the season of Christmas continues.
Fall on your knees. Hear the angel voices.
Choose to believe in Him who is true.
Believe in the One who can make hearts grow in love.
Believe that Jesus came down from above.
From Heaven, God's only Son. The Chosen One. Redeemer. Savior. Hero. Love. Light. Truth.
A real baby. A real birth.
A real postpartum trip to Egypt because of His worth.
He came into this world to give us His Word.
Mary said yes.
Joseph recognized his life, too, was blessed.
They embraced the real hardship, real struggle, real joy, and real love of being a family.
Shepherds flocked by night. A little boy played his drum for Him, for Him the boy played his best.
Angel choirs sang out, "Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on the earth to those on whom His favor rests."
Jesus is born. Rejoice!