Joy to the World
In 1991 the Soviet Union, rightly called an “Evil Empire” by President Reagan, dissolved without a shot being fired. The collapse of the USSR remains the most remarkable, unexpected and utterly amazing event of my life. But now I often think about the fact that a person needs to be thirty-five or forty years old to even remember that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics existed, much less how many millions of people it enslaved and murdered during the seventy-four years of its existence. I often ponder its dissolution and offer prayers of thanksgiving to our Lord for its demise. Its disappearance is a cause for joy.
In the 1960s we all believed the Soviet Union would be around for centuries. Many people in the U.S. believed that socialism, of which the Soviet Union was the standard bearer, was superior to capitalism and would defeat us. It did not, but much of what it stood for has triumphed despite its failure, for at the heart Marxism is a rabid atheism, a violent hatred of the God of Jesus Christ and the Church, which is the Body, Bride and Temple.
In our own nation, Christianity – the faith of the overwhelming majority of its citizens – has been effectively banished from public life. All the Christian symbols and traditions that once marked and shaped our national life have been outlawed, suppressed and disappeared. What we’ve been left with is what the theologian and public intellectual Richard John Neuhaus famously called the “the naked public square”.
Every morning every Home Room teacher in my public high school, and all the public schools of Pennsylvania, read a passage from the Bible after which we all said The Lord’s Prayer. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and our nation, was nearly two hundred years old when, lo and behold, the Supreme Court “discovered”, to our amazement, that such goings on were “unconstitutional”. Not too many years later they “discovered” in that same constitution a guaranteed universal right to abort one’s child. These “discoveries” are not unrelated.
An important part of the erasure of Christianity from our national life is the War on Christmas. You may not have heard about this war because those who have been so strenuously waging it deny that it exists. Christmas, they would have us believe, vanished of its own accord, replaced by a “holiday” which cannot be named. “Happy Holidays” has become the greeting of choice among the Cultural Marxists and their witting and unwitting accomplices in both government and commerce.
Just as you need to be forty or fifty years old to remember the Soviet Union and the Cold War, you need to be fifty or sixty to remember when Christmas was a much loved and integral part of our national life. It remains a legal holiday – but for how long? Who remembers San Diego’s much loved “Christmas on the Prado”? It has now become “December Nights” which celebrates . . . nothing.
And because of all of this, Christmas now provides us with an opportunity to share our faith. Years ago when everyone knew and acknowledged just what “holiday” was being celebrated everyone said “Merry Christmas” without really thinking about it. It was just what you said at Christmastime. Today saying “Merry Christmas” is a declaration of faith. Christmas gives us a chance to share our faith with strangers. Among them are salespeople who, in my experience, seem cowed into wishing us a “Happy Holiday”. We have an opportunity to respond by saying “Merry Christmas”, which in my own case has led to some very interesting conversations. I’ve never had someone respond negatively and sometimes people smile knowingly and say, “Yes, Merry Christmas”.
Christmas is coming and in our increasingly Godless society Christmas presents us with an opportunity to witness to Jesus Christ our Lord and God. The erasure of Christmas from public life has created an opportunity for a genuine sharing of our faith and the joy that comes with it. Joy is the key to an effective witness to our Lord and a joyful “Merry Christmas” is a precious gift we can give to everyone and anyone.
I wish you all a most Blessed and Joyous Christmas!
This article was written by Fr. Ivor Kraft, Associate Priest, and published in the 2017 Winter Messenger.