November is, for me, a month of great drama. It begins with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls — days when the Church celebrates God’s outpouring of holiness upon his people. The month concludes with the Solemnity of Christ the King, the conclusion of the liturgical year.
The readings at Mass are often apocalyptic. They’re revelatory. They pull back the veil between heaven and earth, so that we “see” ourselves standing among “all the angels and saints” when we go to Mass.
This is the kingdom. Christ is our king. As our year reaches its climax, we acknowledge these facts and we prepare to celebrate the advent of the king at Christmas.
I feel especially ready this year, as I’ve just received copies of my new book, Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does). It’s a book to read as one year ends and another begins. It tells the story of how one era ended and a more glorious era began.
I don’t want to be like those retailers who start hawking Christmas on the day after Halloween. But the truth is that, as Christians, we’re always celebrating Christmas. The pivot of our faith is the fact of Jesus’ coming. In the fourth century, Saint Ambrose observed that the power by which the Word took flesh is the same power by which he comes among us today in the Holy Mass. What we celebrate at Christmas, we Catholics celebrate every day.
In my book I consider Christmas as the story of a family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And I examine their interactions with other characters in the story: shepherds and angels, magi and priests, elderly devout souls and the wicked King Herod. All these forces for good and evil converged as a perfect storm in the little town of Bethlehem.
It was history’s turning point. It was the sudden intrusion of the kingdom, the critical moment long prepared by our Father God; and any king who wished to be God’s rival feared that the end was at hand. God’s reign of peace began with a tide of bloodshed. Herod’s slaughter of the innocents was his most famous massacre, but hardly his only one. He knew, and the priests in Jerusalem knew, that something momentous was at hand.
There is epic drama to the story of Christmas. The story is complex — dark, but with sudden bursts of glory. It is a story of hope — but it takes place in violent, transitional times. It demands much more attention than it gets from us.
There is indeed drama to our days, as one Church year turns over to another, as one season turns over to another, as one era turns over to another.
We can celebrate our seasons, this month and next, the end and the beginning — always with Joy. Our times may not be easy, but with Christ they can be joyful. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Even though it’s only November, it’s not too early to raise the blessing: “Joy to the World!”
I hope you find my new book helpful for living these seasons and these times. I’m grateful for all you do for me — and for the sake of evangelization — as you support the Saint Paul Center.