I sometimes think of life as a high sledding hill with God at the top, giving us a push. It’s left to us to steer, but like any good father, He knows our tendencies to close our eyes or overcorrect better than we do, and so He can see every curve we’ll negotiate, every bump that will bounce us airborne, every tree we’ll hit. He sees the trajectories of other sledders and knows their tendencies, as well—He knows whose paths we’ll cross, for good or for ill, and when we’ll be blindsided. He alone has the long view, the Big Picture. We must persist with less—a glimpse of heaven through the treetops as we slip away, faster, faster…
I remember, as a boy, waiting breathlessly for Christmas. Christmas Eve was sweet agony—tossing and turning, knowing I had to fall asleep so Santa would come and yet straining my ears for the jingle of bells and the chance at a glimpse of that jolly, saintly man. I couldn’t wait for presents, of course, but I knew they would be great because I knew HE was great! And although we were not, for the most part, a church-going family, still we had a beautiful Nativity, and I knew the story of birth of Jesus. I knew, at least, that He too was a great man and a great gift to us. In these two stories, magic, hope, anticipation, and gratitude combined into one overwhelming sensation for my young heart: wonder!
Wonder seems harder to come by these days. Our science and technology have helped us explain the Heaven out of the world around us. And we have so much on our plates. In Mary’s day, she and Joseph were very much concerned with their daily bread, with doing God’s will, and with deliverance from evil. Now we have countless other worries, from careers to car repairs, birthday parties to ballgames. Beneath it all we hear the steady drumbeat to, as one retailer put it this year, “Win the Holidays.” We seem so short of time, and the pressure on our heart squeezes it empty. Too many of us feel a hollow ache between our lungs as Christmas approaches, instead of joy and wonder.
The good news is that it’s not too late. Christmas is not a day so much as a season, which begins with the Feast of the Nativity on December 25th and continues for a dozen days: a celebration that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life (John 3:16).” The good news is that Santa is ephemeral, while Christ is eternal. The good news is the Good News: that Jesus is God made flesh, that He came to live with us and suffer and die for us, that He rose again from dead, and that He saves us from our sins.
It is no wonder we sometimes feel blue at Christmas. We celebrate a joy we will not experience this side of heaven. No matter how blessed we are in this life, the gulf between what we have and what our heart yearns for in Heaven is so deep and so wide we cannot clearly see the other side or hope to cross it on our own. But Jesus came to show us the way; He gives us His Body and Blood to strengthen us, and His own Spirit to lead us.
The road that stretches before the feet of a man is a challenge to his heart long before it tests the strength of his legs. Our destiny is to run to the edge of the world and beyond, off into the darkness: sure for all our blindness, secure for all our helplessness, strong for all our weakness, gaily in love for all the pressure on our hearts.– My Way of Life, a simplified Summa Theologica
May God bless you and yours with peace and love throughout this season and beyond. Merry Christmas!
Blogger’s Note: This article appears in the Sunday, Dec. 27, parish bulletin.