There are those who dare say that they are “Nones” today. In that, their faith or church affiliation officially is “none.” We speak of moral people who may believe in God but they have no ties to an official faith or church.
In the blog the other day I talked on this. But I had more to say. Here we go.
When I visited a Christmas holiday decoration this past season, I realized that some church people that claim an affiliation to Jesus actually are no better than a “none” at Christmas. They actually are much worse off.
How are some other Christian churches doing at Christmas, in comparison to “nones?”
Well, the one’s who are a cult or who are a church believing Jesus-isn’t-divine are in a mess.
I went along with someone who wanted to see Christmas lights. In December we visited a place with the most LED lights on a church property on USA’s East Coast. It was the Mormon church right off the DC Beltway. I include some photos here. It was all very pretty there. Yet as I was leaving, I told my friend: ‘Sadly, these people don’t even believe that Christmas is about God coming to the earth in the Blessed Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. They deny Jesus’ divinity. They re-interpret His claim as “I AM the Light of the World” as not a divine claim (as being the I AM person Who spoke to Moses, which He claimed so to be, even so being the same God, now appearing as the God/man), but they see Him in a reduced role– as a blessed person to which we can all be, as equal sons of god with Jesus (provided one becomes a Mormon)…. Even in the Name of Religion, they have no surrender to a Divine Savior to their hearts, but much less! In sum, they have all these lights, but won’t accept Jesus as Lord God to save them, as Light of the World. Their faith is still all about them, and what they get.
Perhaps the emergence of the Mormon Church explains how a people could still form in a congregation and still not believe in Jesus as Savior/God. It ‘s about as bad as a “None.” No, wait a second, I think it’s worse.
The “None” has no connection, but the Mormons (or other so-called churches that do not accept the divinity of Jesus) want to have their Christmas but keep Jesus the Lord out of it. That’s blasphemy. The old Christmas song exults: “O Come Let Us Adore HIM, CHRIST THE LORD.” Christ the Babe is Christ the Lord come. No less!
“O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!” goes the song. But where is the triumph if Jesus of Christmas is not Savior God, but something different. Than what are all these Christmas lights for at the Mormon Temple?
Maybe Mormons (and Christian Scientists and Jehovah Witnesses and some Unitarians) are really religious versions of the Nones. All don’t really welcome Jesus for Who He is at Christmas, now do they? It is not a thing for them that God was born a child among us. Christmas has not its core meaning for them. No true celebration.
I really am sad for people who miss the Savior at Christmas, and choose some other style of celebration or non- celebration of it.
Consider how, with all the hoopla going on for the Christmas holidays, Jesus doesn’t have all the attention on Christmas, or the kind of attention He is due and looking for.
Thus– He really must value the people (of whom I hope are in our Catholic Faith) who do follow Him because of Who He Is, and who truly live Christmas.
It may be waning in popularity to celebrate a Holy Christmas in Christ’ Mass, but I pause to consider the great love God would have for us in remaining with Him in His co-eternal Son Whom He sent as Savior and Redeemer to humankind. We want to make a big deal of Jesus’ coming. His Birth to the world is our hope. The calendar changed to “A.D.” because something/Someone spectacular happened to our world and its people in His Coming.
Yet numbers say that a Holy Christmas (and with Jesus as Savior God in His Birth) is falling in popularity. Could we ever walk away from Christmas and our Catholic faith and its holy expressions, due to waning popularity for it in the culture? Would we get weary of the challenges Catholic Faith and Jesus as Lord Faith poses upon its followers, to imitate Jesus in a way matching His revelation and calling upon us?
Some Catholics have the right answer for that, in using Peter’s words from the Gospel: ‘No, we are not leaving Thee! You, Lord, are Savior and Everlasting Life! Why would we part from You and of all You have shared to us? We need to eat the Bread of Mercy and Life! We need to become one in You! We need You in our souls to transform us every day.’ That text is from John chapter 6, the chapter describing the large departure from Jesus at that stage of His ministry on earth.
The popularity/ non-popularity of Christmas matters to us. How do priests and laity handle the loss of numbers and the waning popularity in our society/culture for the Church? I have some comment.
Firstly, Faith is not about what public opinion decides, as if in a majority poll. The Church remains who she is— no matter if crowded or not. At Christmas or any time. And Faith says that it is not about how we happen to be feeling about ourselves or what our “likes” are—which determines things. We are led by the Holy Spirit, and Christ has established Himself as Head of the Body, the Church. So we are being brought on a journey, and that is what Faith is. Faith, then, is the response people make to what presents itself as a reality – a reality which makes claims on your person.
Here is something so extraordinary that it interrupts our world; here is something that (like Moses in the story of the Burning Bush) which makes you ‘turn aside to see’, that stops you short.’ ‘Faith begins in that moment of stopping, you could say: the moment when you can’t just walk on as you did before. Jesus and His Life, ever present, just gets to you.’ That’s what it’s about.
Secondly, (on doubts and questions raised in today’s culture for Christ or the Christmas story) we are to ask simply: Am I changed in a Faith experience of Jesus? Hopefully, you have affirmative answers.
Are there still questions or things to wonder about? Sure. Take, for example, something from literature. In “The Journey of the Magi,” a T. S. Eliot Christmas poem, he imagined the wise men back at home after their journey to Bethlehem, ‘no longer at ease here in the old dispensation’, but wondering whether what they had witnessed was birth or death. ” …I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.”
Eliot says: The wise men have witnessed the Rebirth of humankind, and they can’t deny that they’ve seen what they’ve seen. They really made the journey and they really saw something that persuaded them it had been worthwhile. It was an experience of faith: a claim, a shock, a death*, a life. (I take those words from his poem. For Eliot, faith as death means, I think, death to falsehoods, and death to their former way of life.)
Eliot has the Magi sum up their trip. (Of the Journey) ‘It was, you may say, satisfactory’, Eliot’s wise man sums up things in a masterpiece understatement. It’s Eliot’s way of saying: It was great!
The wise men found what they were looking for – and it was not at all what they thought they had been looking for. And what of us? What are we Jesus-is-Divine believers saying? Is Jesus Great? Or just a man that stirred things up– as Mormons, JW’s, and others would say of Jesus and Christmas?! Hmm, JW’s don’t even acknowledge Jesus’ birthday, because they teach that keeping birthdays is a form of idolatry. So, they say, we Catholics are in idolatry at Christmas Mass! Isn’t that interesting?!
We as Catholics not only acknowledge Jesus as God and Who had a birthday, but we also confirm that Jesus gave Himself to us at the Last Supper as Eucharist to encounter. The Mass at Christmas or on any day of the year gives us an encounter with Jesus as profound as that of the Magi in the original meeting with Jesus to the world. The little sign of a baby is now also the little sign of Holy Communion to us.
As a take-away thought from here, I give you two more things to ponder.
The Christian gospel firmly declares two equally necessary truths. One: Jesus is the hope of the nations, and Two: Jesus is an utter surprise.
Jesus is the Hope of Nations, so we Catholics believe. Jesus is what the entire human race really longs for (or Who they truly long for). In the last post-blog, I was considering the numbers at Christmas Mass, and how some figures today show for a drop in attendance, in general, to Catholic and other Christian churches on the Birthday of Our Lord.
One reason for it is the growth of NONE’s in society, those people who do not identify into a practice of religion in their lives. Thus, the check “none” in the box for religion.
Now I think another reason is because of these replacement Christmas celebrations. The Mormons have the big choir and the bright lights, but they replace Jesus as Savior and make Him more of an angel come to earth to show us how all of us can be god-like or angels. That’s wrong. That’s not Christmas faith.
Also, they have all these bright lights at Christmas but do not see Jesus as Divine as being “the Light of the World” as He claimed. We have a whole lot of people who have been duped to some downsizing of Jesus as not who He was. Thus, Christmas is not really Christmas.
And some of these missing people at Christmas Masses and services last Dec. 25th might have been them.
Now, in the second Gospel truth, Jesus is an utter surprise in the way He came to us as the Lord of Heaven. People still totally miss it about Him. God came to earth! But they don’t get it! Jesus is so foreign or perhaps unconventional that He is unrecognizable to those who might have been expected to welcome Him. “He made the world,” says St John’s Gospel opening, “but the world had no room for him and the experts in revelation and religious purity turned from him in disgust (John 1.10—11).”
We Catholics are meant to be the changed response. We now know Who Jesus is and we look to make a whole lot of room for Him. We live and we die in the Revelation of Jesus. We know we are meant to be stopped in our tracks by all of what Christ’ Birth means. We know Christmas is true and real, and that it happened in history and that it impacts us today immensely. Jesus is true, and He brings the truth.
This truth of God is the most comforting and joyful presence we could ever imagine; and also the most disorienting and demanding. That is just how it is. What a paradox.
God is revealing Himself to us, in the special manner of Jesus, and wouldn’t that be both filled with simplicities and complexities? If Jesus poses some difficulty to us, then we need to realize that He is looking to help us by faith recognize His obvious Person that has been so missed by people only looking on limited eye sight and senses. He will be seen by the soul. Charles Causley started a poem with the line: ‘I am the great sun, but you do not see me.’
Jesus is so obvious and not, that we see Him and we don’t see Him.
How would we best see Him? The Psalmist provides the answer: let us “be still and know that He is God.”
We may not ever figure Him out. We don’t have to. We just need to accept Him into our hearts and to have His place as Head of the body, the Church.
Happy Year of Grace to you.