I cannot put my finger on exactly when I lost my Christmas spirit. I have such wonderful memories of my childhood Christmases. We always went to Midnight Mass and so Christmas day was entirely dedicated for presents and a feast. There were newly acquired toys, games and books to read. A fully stoked fireplace would be burning all day and there would be naps taken by everyone after such a late night and early morning. I suppose all people eventually surrender the effortless unfolding of that day as we move into adulthood. If we have a family we are now engineering that experience for them. For myself I went from enjoying that perfect day prepared by my parents to priesthood where I felt responsible for the church component of Christmas for hundreds of people. Without being too specific the obligations of the season feel like an avalanche of details and drudgery. With the passing of every December day I feel the list grow longer and my spirit sagging into inertia and weariness.
For many years I worked with a woman completely unsympathetic to my self-pity. In her perspective it was my responsibility as a pastor to lift up my parishioners and assist in the merriment of the season. She “suggested” that no one was interested in yet another complaining personality. Christmas and Advent are a time for great rejoicing in the lives of people who are struggling to stay afloat so in essence “buck up and get to work.” At the time I felt she was horribly insensitive but now, many years later, I see her unpleasant point. Feeling sorry for myself feels like such a selfish occupation when I have so many blessings I could never count them all.
Why should one go around with a gloomy façade simply because one is busy and tired. The fact is everyone is busy and tired. Everyone is overextended and anxious and maybe the best way we can prepare to celebrate the feast of Christmas is by offering good cheer. To offer up prayers full of gratitude and hope can distract us from all the troubling or worrisome details of our lives. There is so much to celebrate and rejoicing seems like the least we can do in the face of so many blessings and opportunities. So why not join me (however reluctantly) this Advent and Christmas by being gentle with one another, listening carefully when someone speaks, offering the other motorist a chance to enter into our lane of traffic. Let’s be grateful and send out a shout of elation in the midst of this incredibly busy time because we are the children of God and all things are possible – even joy!Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again. Rejoice! Everyone should see how unselfish you are. The Lord is near. Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Present your needs to God in every form of gratitude. Then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus. Finally, your thoughts should be wholly directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise. Live according to what you have learned and accepted, what you have heard me say and seen me do. Then will the God of peace be with you. Philippians~