Beyond the carols, gifts, and lights, for Christians, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God.
“It is to remember that 2,000 years ago, God took on our human flesh and became in every way like we are, but without sin, to save us and to grant us the gift of promise of eternal life,” said Father Joseph Muldoon, Episcopal vicar and assistant to the Archbishop of Ottawa, with the Catholic Archdiocese. “At Christmas, in a sense, we basically celebrate the gift of God’s love for us.”
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According to the 2001 census, nearly 80 per cent of Ottawa residents identified themselves as belonging to a denomination of Christianity.
At this time of year, many of those Christians will attend a Christmas Mass, even if they do not regularly go during the year.
“It’s one of the touchstones of the year, a celebration of hope,” said James Murray, senior minister at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church on Cooper Street. “It’s a significant time. People are looking for the birth of hope in the world. They’re looking for a belief in a better world — that things can change.”
While the meaning behind the Mass is the same each year, Muldoon said, the context changes to reflect what is happening in society. For example, this Christmas comes during a time when local charities are reeling from effects of this year’s recession.
Most Catholic churches in Ottawa will hold late night services on Christmas Eve, usually spanning midnight. Most will also offer an early service earlier in the evening for young families.