Today, all churches have also mitigated the period of penance before Christmas. The Western church continues to celebrate Advent very solemnly, but now as a joyful time of expectation for the coming Messiah. The world expends much energy in the celebration of Christmas, and the commercial preparation continues to grow longer and longer, in the hopes that we will spend more and more money on gifts for one another. The church hopes that we will give some of our time and energy to preparing ourselves spiritually for Christmas. There are today many groups and movements that want to curb the commercialization of Christmas, for either religious or political reasons. A spiritual question The celebration of Christmas is a spiritual question. We do not want to empty Christmas of the genuine joy that goes with the feast. Christmas can be a wonderful feast with beautiful carols and a renewed community feeling called “the spirit of Christmas.” On the other hand, intemperate partying and greed can become evil and smother the spiritual meaning of the feast – God has become human that we might become godlike. St. Paul was to observe, “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). Here, “becoming rich” does not mean the acquisition of lots of money and possessions, but to become like God, which is worth more than “thousands in gold and silver” (Ps 118:72). The giving of gifts has a Christian meaning. When Jesus was born, the wise men came from the East bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. When we give gifts to one another, we are acting out the principle that Christ taught us, “whatever you do for the least of my brothers or sisters, you do for me” (Mt 25:40:45). Unfortunately, we sometimes use the giving of gifts to use and manipulate one another. The celebration of Christmas is truly a spiritual issue. We must say no to the false values of materialism, of consumerism and of greed. We must accept the gift of Christ, given to us by the Father, who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
Daniel Olson Gives the Rules for the Nativity Fast: