During the lead up to Christmas, we are inundated with numerous things to do. Gifts to be bought, cards to send, cookies and candies to bake, decorations to hang, parties, school pageants, and work celebrations to attend.
The reality is that this time leading up to Christmas has become in our culture one of the most stressful and anxious times of the year—rather than being filled with hope and joy and peace! So what is the solution?
The Church in her wisdom gives us the perfect solution to the craziness of the world because Advent is designed to help us step outside of the hustle and bustle, and to focus instead upon preparing our hearts and minds to enter into the quiet beauty and peace of what Christmas truly is. Of when we come before the King of Kings born in a manger, and are immersed in the joy and love of deeper intimacy with Him who is Emmanuel, God With Us.
For God is with us each and every day. He is always whispering. We just have to be intentional, and make time to quietly listen. But how to do that in the mad dash to Christmas Eve? By bringing God into all that we do during this time of preparation.
So as you are baking holiday cookies or preparing a favorite family dish, remember how Bethlehem means “house of bread” and how Jesus is the Bread of Life. Perhaps this will prompt you to go to daily Mass to receive the Bread of Life, or maybe you take a meal to a shut-in neighbor, or to invite a person with no family to your home for Christmas dinner.
Or as you are cleaning the house, reflect upon how well you are cleaning your heart to welcome Jesus. When was the last time that you went to the sacrament of Reconciliation? Or is there a friend or family member with whom you should reach out to and reconcile?
Or when we are out shopping and surrounded by the multitudes, do you remember that Jesus comes to us personally? Perhaps this helps you to be mindful that Jesus is coming to each and every person passing by and pressing upon us personally, too. Perhaps this causes us take a moment to pray for each person’s preparation of their hearts and minds for Jesus? Or helps us to be a bit more patient when standing in line?
Or when we are putting up our Christmas decorations, are we mindful of where we place the Nativity scene? Is it off to the side, and secondary to the trimmed tree and piles of gifts? Perhaps we use the location of the manger scene in our homes to reflect upon what place Jesus has in our lives, and then we look to make an adjustment in our lives that will reflect a greater commitment to Christ.
For this is how the hustle and bustle of this season can work to our advantage. For God is with us indeed. We just have to allow His light to shine in the dark places of our lives and allow His peace and joy and hope to enter into our hearts so we more deeply experience His transforming love for each of us this Christmas. Truly the greatest gift of all.