From the words “Christ’s Mass”, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. This celebration which falls on December 25 has been a prominent holiday celebrated worldwide.
As early Christians celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25 – the conception of Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it has been sensible to celebrate the birth of Jesus nine months later.
Accounts of Christ’s nativity up to His earliest life were detailed in both Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The second chapter of the Gospel of Luke narrates that in the days near the birth of Jesus, Caesar Augustus decreed for a census to be taken in all of Rome’s empire. Joseph, belonging to the house and family of David, went to Bethlehem with Mary to register. And while they were there, the time came for Mary’s delivery. There was no place for them at that time; Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, wrapping him in bands of cloth and laying him in a manger. An angel then announced to shepherds nearby the birth of the savior. This compelled them to come and see the newborn baby who would eventually save the world.
Christmas is the fulfillment of Prophet Isaiah’s prophecy that a “virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (cf. Isaiah 7:14) Immanuel means “God is with us.” and indeed, God lived and walked with us in giving His Son, Jesus Christ.
In preparation for Christmas, the Catholic Church goes to journey through the season of Advent – a period of penance and self-preparation where the faithful are invited to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. While Catholics observe the tradition of preparing a Belen (manger) to picture the scene of Christ’s nativity, it has been a custom to include the Baby Jesus in the scene beginning Christmas eve. Churches designate a couple to bring the Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas eve and day celebrations.
Yearly, Christmas decorations, gift-giving, and carols never fail to be part of the Christmas picture. In the Philippines, these things can already be observed as early as September – a distinct Filipino custom that as well gives a longer time to celebrate Christmas. And on Christmas day, Filipino families bring the children to their godparents (and as well grandparents) to receive Aguinaldo or Christmas presents.
With festive celebrations associated with the Christmas season keeping the people occupied for days, the Church always reminds the faithful of the reason for celebration – the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is being celebrated because of the coming of the Savior and the promised salvation came into fruition with Christ’s birth. This Christmas may we have our hearts open for the newborn Christ – ready to receive the salvation He brings to us.