As we are now drawing super close to Christmas, the world has us in an absolute frenzy of preparations and “checking lists twice.”
For those of us for whom Jesus is the reason for this season, it can be extremely disconcerting to traverse through these final days as all the focus seems to be on everything and anything but Jesus.
So how do we wrench our focus off all the “to-dos” and allow ourselves to focus on Him?
By doing what Jesus told us to do and become like little children.
How? By acting like a child.
1. Look with childlike wonder.
How often is it that we actually stop and look at the world around us? Are we truly aware of creation all around us? The grass, the trees, the birds, the sky, the sunrise (or sunset), the breathtaking expanse of the stars at night.
During this time of year, there is an added dimension to seeing. Are we really seeing the lights on the homes, decorations on the trees, or the beauty all around? Or are we in such a hurry to get from place to place that everything is just a blur?
So look and wonder.
It seems that we are bombarded with Christmas music from the end of October onward, so we tend to just tune it out by this point in December.
But when was the last time you truly listened to the words? Or even more importantly, when was the last time you actually heard the people around you? The person standing in line behind you, the clerk at the checkout counter, your neighbor, or even your own family?
Studies show that particular scents will activate memories more quickly than any other of our five senses, and the smells of Christmas—pine trees, peppermint, hot chocolate, turkey, ham, pies, cookies—are some of my favorites.
But this year, I want you to smell your humanity.
How? By entering into the place of our Savior’s birth. Smell the earthiness of the dirt and the straw, the smells of the donkey and the sheep. Of the sweat and odor of the shepherds.
These were the smells that greeted out Lord at His birth, but He did not shy away from them. No, he inhaled them deeply as He became Emmanuel—God-with-Us.
We, too, should be mindful of the smell of humanity, particularly the smell of our own sinfulness—and make it a point to ask our Lord for His forgiveness and mercy before coming before Him in the manger on Christmas.
So smell your humanity.
Taste, like smell, triggers powerful memories, and can actually cause us to go out of our way just to experience a particular taste again. (Can anyone who is from, or knows Milwaukee say Kopp’s custard?)
Taste, particularly at Christmas, most often revolves around the family table, where particular dishes are prepared and shared with all who gather.
But it is in the gathering and in the sharing that this year we should look to taste gratitude.
We should taste gratitude in the reality that there is food on the table, and people with whom to share it—vs the reality that so many in our world experience—a hungry belly, an empty table, and no one with whom to share a meal.
Despite how much our family and friends may irritate, or even downright annoy us, we should give thanks for our true blessings—the love of those around us.
So taste gratitude.
Having looked with childlike wonder, listened to the sounds around us, smelled our humanity, and tasted gratitude, we can tend to feel a bit unworthy before our Lord and Creator. But at Christmas, His invitation is for us to draw near and behold Him.
To behold Him who loves us beyond measure—as high as the sky, deep as the ocean, and as wide as the cross on which He offered Himself for our sinfulness.
He who came to us as a child so that we might actually not be afraid, but might draw close to Him and adore. And as we celebrate Christmas Mass, we actually are able to touch and receive Him in Holy Eucharist.
And it is in these profound moments, that we are fully embraced and feel His joy, and peace and love.
So feel His joy, peace and love.
For me, checking off this list has led me to experiencing a perfect Christmas.
And I am willing to bet that if you check off these five things that I just shared with you, you will have a perfect Christmas, too.
Merry (almost) Christmas!