Church leaders discuss Christmas
MORGAN CITY, La. — The reasons many Christians celebrate Christmas sometimes get lost in the secular festiviti, es associated with the season, so local church leaders shared their perspectives on what the day and season mean to them and their churches.
“Christmas Mass is the only Mass throughout the year that we celebrate his (Jesus’) birth and death,” said the Rev. Greg Fratt of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Morgan City.
“For us as Catholics, the heart of our faith is the Eucharist,” Fratt said.
Eucharist is a Greek word that means “sacrifice,” he said. It can be used both as a noun to refer to the consecrated bread and wine consumed for communion representing Jesus sacrificing his life for humanity, and as a verb to refer to the “sacrifice” that Catholics are to make in their own lives, Fratt said.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” and the main industry there was bread-making. Each person in the church receives “the bread of Christ” in communion, Fratt said.
“It was no coincidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem,” he said.
Jesus’ birth was a monumental moment in history, said the Rev. Marty Harden of Bethel Pentecostal Church in Patterson.
“Our whole world changed with Jesus’ birth,” Harden said. “Even our calendar changed with the birth of Christ.”
Christmas celebrates God’s sending of a savior that was foretold in the Old Testament in Isaiah, Harden said.
“We believe that is God coming to man in the form of his only begotten son,” Harden said. “We feel like he (Jesus) was the embodiment of the meaning of his name (God saves).”
The belief that God came to man on earth in the form of Jesus Christ distinguishes Christianity from all other religions, which, inversely, try to come to God, Harden said.
Many prophecies were told about Jesus’ life and death in the Old Testament, Harden said. “He (Jesus) fulfilled every single one of them,” he said.
Over the years, the celebration of Christmas has strayed from the way people originally celebrated it, say some reverends.
“I do feel that the Christmas season has become commercialized so much,” said the Rev. Chad Hebert of Calumet Baptist Church in Patterson. “We can really get lost in the mysticism of Christmas.”
People should focus less on gift-giving and more on why Christians began celebrating Christmas in the first place, Hebert said. “The greatest gift to us was Christ,” Hebert said. “The most important thing for people to know is that God came down in the flesh,” he said.
Harden said, “The thing that saddens me is that people around the world know more about Santa Claus than Jesus Christ.”
The Christmas season is supposed to change people, Fratt said. “The way people are a little bit nicer (during the season) … teaches us how we should be all year long,” he said. “If you go back to being the same way on Dec. 26, I think you missed the meaning of Christmas.”
Hebert also spoke about the Christmas season changing people by challenging his church to find a family in need to help, he said. “That’s my biggest dream is for people to reach out to the community,” Hebert said. “In all that, we just try to let the whole meaning of Christmas not be lost.”