The secular and the sacred need not conflict

"Christmas in America is done in a way that offends many people around the world, and also many Christians in the United States. The mega-bucks shopping, the over-the-top promotion, the non-stop jingles and carols, the light displays, yard decorations, huge inflatables everywhere -- must Christmas really be like this? No, it doesn't need to be. But neither should we be quick to take offense. A big Christmas need not be an insincere Christmas.

This point was made by Benedict XVI before he became Pope. He noted in a 1977 essay that .... "such criticism is largely justified, even though it might too readily forget that, behind the facade of business and sentimentality, the yearning for something purer and greater is not entirely extinguished; indeed, that the sentimental framework often provides the protecting shield behind which hides a noble and genuine sentiment that is simply reluctant to expose itself to the gaze of the other."

He is speaking about the core of good and virtuous intentions behind much of what is assailed as "commercialism." Much of what people buy is for others. But what people do to commemorate Christmas reflects an inner sense that something extraordinary is occurred and continues to occur on the night of Jesus' birth. All this fuss would not take place over a fat man in the red suit... From the earliest centuries, Christmas was not merely a private affair for homes and parishes. Christians obtain grace from reflecting on the miracle of the Incarnation but they have given the event called Christmas as a glorious gift to the world".

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