On my walk to the metro the other day, past houses illuminated with brightly colored lights (which were put up too early) and festive cheer, I found myself feeling irritated, lonely, and discouraged.
But this is Advent. I’m supposed to be happy. I work for the Church, so why am I not more excited?
The answer hit me like a snowball to the face.
One of the reasons why my heart has been restless is because I have been so critical of the “happy holidays” culture, separating myself from those who are not more traditional. In an attempt to celebrate Advent “successfully” (whatever that looks like), I put myself above anyone who does not observe this pentential season the “right” way.
I have fallen yet again into the, “I’m not one of those people mentality.”
How many times have we all said this, especially during Advent? Do any of these situations sound familiar?
- Criticizing retailers for putting out merchandise too early
- Gossiping about the neighbors who decorate the day after Thanksgiving
- Rolling our eyes at black friday shoppers
- If we did shop, our shopping was completely justified…we’re not one of those rediculous 3am shoppers…
- Glaring at the barrista who hands us a red coffee cup and wishes us happy holidays
- Plugging our ears in protest of Christmas music played before the Octave
Is this having the effect we really want? Is this really the Christian response? Are we so liturgically rigid that we deny returning charity to others of good will?
These “others” are trying to spread joy in that same secular world which told Mary and Joseph that there was no room for them. Do we not give them room in our hearts? Are we too busy complaining that it isn’t the right time to sing “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” that we forget to recognize and adore the presence of Christ whose love is incarnate in the smiling person before us?
In all of this holiday mania let us be lights of joy and let us receive others as lights of joy. Christ came in the most unexpected place on that first Christmas day, and we have the opportunity to meet him in those very people we are so quick to judge, those who “take Christ out of Christmas.”
No one can really take Christ out of Christmas. Our challenge is to recognize Christ in those place where he is needed most, and bring his love and light into the darkness. As Christians we cannot just ignore the darkness and those who are thirsting within it for a savior.
It was His Heart that beat under the heart of Our Lady waiting to be born for the salvation of the world. It was His Heart that cured the sick, forgave the sinner, and fed the hungry. It was His Heart that beat on the Cross for us and still beats for us in Heaven. It is His Heart that beats within our own Hearts. The question is, are we willing to bring that love into the world?
Christ sees us all men and women as his children, he does not evaluate us as “happy holidays” people or “Merry Christmas” people.
If we find ourselves frustrated by the culture, by the fact that our ministry makes it difficult to pray, or if this season brings with it personal challenges and struggles, let us be consoled by the truth that Christ comes into the world each time at Mass and is always present in our hearts and in the hearts of others.
Whether or not we do Christmas or Advent “right,” no matter when we put out our Christmas lights and decorations, he still comes, for he is always faithful.