When Christmas isn’t Joyous

homelessAt Christmas time, we’re assailed by songs that tell us that it’s the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’ We are encouraged to revel in the excitement of food and family and presents and general boisterous chaos.

For many however, Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year; a time when loneliness and poverty are exacerbated; when spending a quiet night eating a tin of baked beans is not only lonely, but excruciatingly painful.

My heart goes out to those who are poor and alone on Christmas, and as the church, we should be reaching out to them, but I can’t help wondering whether Christmas’ ability to be devastating is evidence that we’ve really missed the point.

Who was more poor or alone on Christmas night than Mary and Joseph themselves? And yet the entire reason that we sing of it as the most joyous and holy of all nights, is that Jesus, the savior of the world, was born.

Secular society has made Christmas all about friends, family, presents and food, isolating people who don’t have these things. But that is never what it was supposed to be about. It was about God coming to earth in human form, in the loneliest and poorest of ways, to dwell with us and save us from ourselves. If this is really our focus at Christmas, it can be a time of great joy for everyone, even, or dare I say especially, for those who don’t fit society’s mold.

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What is the Immaculate Conception?

mary-figure_21252044If you’d asked me yesterday if I believed in the Immaculate Conception, I’d have said ‘Yes, absolutely.’ But that was before last night.

Following up from a conversation about the apocrypha with a Catholic friend, I was doing a quick browse of the internet. I kept noticing the phrase ‘Immaculate Conception’ coming up, but something about the way it was worded wasn’t sitting right.

Finally, for the first time in my life, I actually looked up the meaning of the phrase. And I was very surprised at what I found.
Like many people, I was familiar with the term. It seems to be used particularly often in regards to unwed girls getting pregnant: “Well this was hardly the immaculate conception!”

Everyone knows the Immaculate Conception refers to the Virgin Mary becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit, right? Wrong.

According to Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge, though I did cross check with other sources) the Immaculate Conception refers exclusively to “a dogma of the Catholic Church maintaining that from the moment when she was conceived in the womb, the Blessed Virgin Mary was kept free of original sin.”

Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with the deity of Christ, but rather the perfect nature of his mother; and in that, I don’t believe.

It has reminded me to be careful before laying claim to a belief, because if I claim it, I have a responsibility to know what it entails.