As the Catholic Church approaches the second half of Advent, and with it, the coming of Christmas, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput is asking whether or not American culture really has room for Christ…or simply a secular construct of His birthday.
He begins his column, printed in Wednesday’s Denver Catholic Register, by citing a 1955 essay by author and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, who’s Chronicles of Narnia are slated to hit movie theaters this week.
Lewis wrote of the particular holiday customs of the fictional nation, Niatirb (his home country of Britain spelled backward), which simultaneously celebrates both the winter festivals of “Exmas” and “Crissmas.”
During Exmas, Lewis writes, the people “lie in bed till noon”, exhausted from their preparations, “But in the evening…eat five times as much as on other days,” crown “themselves with crowns of paper” and “become intoxicated.”
“On the day after Exmas,” he says, “they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and the reckoning of how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine.”
The far less prominent celebrators of Crissmas, on the other hand, “rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast.”
Archbishop Chaput sees Lewis’ parable as an apt allegory for modern culture.
“The world” he said, “left to its own devices---has no room and no use for the birth of Jesus Christ. It has contempt for Christians who seriously strive to be His disciples.”
He said that “the world has an ingenious ability to attach itself to what Christians believe; tame it; subvert it — and then turn it against the very people who continue to believe.”
“Too many Americans” the Archbishop pointed out, “don’t really celebrate Christmas. They may think they do, but they don’t. They celebrate Exmas.”
He challenged the faithful to spend the remaining time of Advent “tithing” our time to God, sitting quietly with Him, and allowing “Him to fill our actions and our choices with His Son…let Him shape us into the men and women He needs.”
He also lamented that in many ways, “America is no longer a Christian culture.”
He stressed that this fact can change, pointing to the “many good Catholics and other Christians [who] still live in it.” “But if people really understood”, he said, “and acted on the meaning of Advent, the world would be a different place.”
Advent, the Archbishop pointed out means “coming.” “What’s coming”, he said, “in the reality of Christmas is an invasion. The world needs the invasion but doesn’t want it. It’s an invasion of human flesh and all creation by the Son of God; by the holiness of the Creator Himself.”