Each year I feel more like a foreigner this time of year, at Christmas.
The other day I was out doing some errands when I was near one of my favorite bookstores. So I thought I would go in and see if there was a 2007 calendar that I liked. Then I went in and saw the hordes of people and the long lines and I remembered, oh yeah, it's Christmas, and everyone is shopping.
I just didn't think of it ahead of time; it's just not my world anymore.
It's the funniest thing; both us Christians and the world around us are celebrating a great feast day. We even call it the same thing, Christmas. But even though the world calls its celebration "Christmas," what they are celebrating is the winter solstice.
And it's natural to celebrate the winter solstice. At the darkest time of year, with the least light, when it's cold and nature is going to sleep, it's natural to renew our bonds of family and friendship with gifts and food and drink and conviviality.
But the world fails to look through these things to see the great Secret they are meant to serve: that out of the very darkness and obscurity of this world and this life, the Eternal Word of God takes human flesh from the Virgin Mary and is born among us, God with us, Emmanuel.
The world carefully peels the fruit, throws it away, and eats the rind.