The following is taken from a meditation given by Fr. Bruce Wren L.C. at Catholic Professionals of Illinois Advent Retreat 2015 (Part 1)
In his book God and the World with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Peter Seewald says with good faith during his conversation with the Cardinal, that Christmas has become “the biggest myth of all time.” But the Cardinal, in a very interesting response, replied that Christmas is not a myth. A myth, he says, is:
A kind of visionary means of expression for realities that go beyond what is visible and tangible, and thus expresses a higher truth than what is merely factual. It refers to a vision, not to facts.
[An example is the myth of the Phoenix-resurrection, or the Minotaur in the labyrinth of Theseus: a vision of what is terrible and frightening when faced with an insoluble, obscure problem]
But, he continues:
The birth of Christ, on the other hand, is a historical event, something that really happened. In the history of religions, this direct connection with real history is among the distinctive features of the Christian faith.
So, almost exactly the opposite of what Peter Seewald was saying (that Christmas has dominated modern society), the Cardinal explains that what is happening today is rather an attempt to make Christmas independent of Christianity, to reject any Christian origins.
[I]n America, in the process of commercialization and the pursuit of sentimentality, the display windows of large shops, which in former years were decorated with crèches at Christmas time, are now equipped with mythological representations, with reindeer or Santa Clauses, whereby what is truly mythical is set side-by-side with what is Christian.
And he concludes:
It is an attempt to keep what is beautiful and touching and to get away from anything in it that makes demands upon us.
The theme of this post is Christmas, but Christmas as it really is, a demanding Christmas, you might say, but I’d rather say a blessed or beatifying Christmas. Because what is important in Christmas is important for all human life: the search for meaning in our lives, even when this meaning demands effort, discipline, work, and above all, faith.
John says in his Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.
This is the true theme of Christmas: to try to grasp the meaning of the life that Christ has brought to the world, to capture that light that is life, the light that God became flesh means for men.