This is a season of greetings, yes, even after all the politically correct jargon elbows its way in, of Christmas joy. It’s become so careful that all we can say it “Happy Winter,” what ever that means for something no one get bent out of shape about. The very act of greeting one and all with the traditional, and yes, Christian greeting has fortuitously become an accidental act of evangelization. You are announcing that you are disciple of Christ, proud of it, and wish like St. Paul that grace and peace befall the person addressed.

That is the upshot of the long single sentence structure of the first reading. Paul writes, heaping up appositives, participles, and relative clauses addresses the holy and beloved members of the church at Rome and wishes them grace and peace. This is our Christmas greeting: grace and peace. Not exclusively for one’s fellow Christians, but a wish for everyone, muslins, buddhists, vedics of every sort, and yes even the modern neo-pagan person. That’s the beauty of this greeting. The peace and grace that goes forth from us will come back to us increasing in peace and grace.

We need to stop backing away from our carefulness about how we greeting one another, hoping to offend no one. So, now two things come to mind. If I’m extending this greeting, then I have to first be living this greeting, a task very difficult in the modern fractured world. I have to be or become a person of grace and peace in order to extend it. It has two other components: joy and holiness. These two are not things we often thing of going together.

The second thing, I must receive the greeting in return from the other person, regardless of what it means. This first step of exchange of greeting is the opening of dialogue; we introduce ourselves by name and we greet. In biblical times (and a bit formally today in Greece) the normal greeting year round between people would to say “Grace!” Χαρις. Greetings open a dialogue between people, something more desperately needed in our world today more than ever. It begins formally with a known set of words in exchange to create the space for the rest to follow, if one hands in there with it.

In this season of greetings, in which we just might actually speak to one another, proclaim our greeting, “Merry Christmas.” Vesele Vanoce. Feliz Navidad. Joyeux Noel. Buon Natale. Felicem Natelem Christi. Καλα Χριστουγεννα. And I know that there is one in Hawaiian from that movie!

Since we’re in the “O” antiphons, Merry Christmas!

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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