This year, the Fourth Sunday of Advent is on December 24. Morning Masses in the parish will celebrate the close of Advent, and evening Masses will celebrate the start of Christmas. In our homes - the domestic church - we pattern our celebrations after those celebrated in the church year. Here’s a lesser known church tradition we might want to consider incorporating into our family celebrations, the Christmas Proclamation. The text is in the Roman Missal and can be proclaimed at the start of the Christmas celebration in the parish.
Here is the same text for use at home:
The 25th day of December, when ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world,
when God in the beginning created heaven and earth and formed man in his own likeness;
when century upon century had passed since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood, as a sign of covenant and peace;
in the 21st century since Abraham, our father in faith, came out of Ur of Chaldees;
in the 13th century since the People of Israel were led by Moses in the Exodus from Egypt;
around the thousandth year since David was anointed King;
in the 65th week of the prophecy of Daniel;
in the 194th Olympiad;
in the year 752 since the foundation of the City of Rome;
in the 42nd year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace, JESUS CHRIST, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and when nine months had passed since his conception, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man:
the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
Consider proclaiming this statement at your family Christmas meal, giving your celebration a more authentic context.
Every family has shared rituals: a tree decorated, wreaths hanging, nativity scenes, special decorative lights, gift-giving, family members gathering, meals shared. On the Sunday after Christmas Day, the Feast of the Holy Family, stands as a reminder of what is most important in all of our relationships: to live as Jesus did, in total self-gift to others. Our participation in a family, whether traditional or non-traditional, shapes our relationship with God. It is through our relationships that we first come to know our God, and it is within the context of these relationships that we continue to grow in God’s love. Consider celebrating your family on this feast day.
Then, January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It is also the World Day of Prayer for Peace. As we do in church, perhaps our families could pray together for peace in our homes, and throughout the world. Perhaps, like Mary, Jesus may be “begotten in us.” The 13th century religious mystic, Meister Eckhart reminds us:
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”
The second Sunday after December 25 is the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. “Epiphany” means manifestation. God-incarnate is made manifest or revealed to all the nations, as witnessed by the three “wise men” or “kings.” Jesus was born not for an isolated body of people in one part of the world. This feast says that God’s love, in Christ, is a message meant for the whole world. On this day we might want to talk together and pray that as a family we will be strong enough to reach out to all people in need.
The final feast of this Christmas season is the Baptism of the Lord: Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River. On this occasion, the church marks the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. Perhaps on this day we could discuss at home how our Christianity is not just a personal choice, but a public witness.
So, Christmas is more than a day. Our “domestic church” rituals could reflect the fullness of the liturgical season by celebrating each feast of the season in our homes: Christmas Day, Holy Family, Mary, Mother of God, Epiphany, and the Baptism of the Lord.