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You might have heard it sung that the Christmas season is the most wonderful time of the year. While indeed it is for many of us, it can also be a very frazzled, hectic, and even lonely time.
It’s as if we’re all engaged in some sort of race that starts at the end of November with the words “On your mark..get set. SHOP!!” (Indeed Black Fridays have this unfortunate characteristic, with people clawing over each other to get that $100 55” screen TV or whatever!)
Speaking of TV, it’s no help when you get bombarded at the end of a hectic day with image after image of smiling, loving families sharing the joys of all the right gifts and all the right food and whatever else.This promotes the façade that love and togetherness are yours for the asking at Target or Macy’s or your nearest Audi dealer or Sprint store!
While I’m not against businesses trying to prosper, or even stay afloat for that matter, an overemphasis on the commercial aspects of Christmas can leave many of us with a gnawing feeling of emptiness, or weariness in trying to keep up with the Joneses: Why is everyone else having so much fun? Where are my good times?
Maybe you feel like you’re just hanging on in your job, or trying to find one, or are lonely, looking for love in all the wrong places, as the song goes. Perhaps you’re having problems with a family member or a coworker; or anxious over bills.
It is very easy for you to feel more isolated than usual this time of year. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone has their act so wonderfully together except you! This following prayer might put you in a better frame of mind.
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, in the midst of all the hectic activity during this Christmas season let me never forget this holiday is about you, first and foremost. Help me to embrace true humility as you, the King of Kings, did by being born not in a mansion or even an inn, but rather in a cave so that I might one day merit Eternal Life with you in heaven.
Dear Lord Jesus, let me never forget in my own downcast moments that you too felt vulnerability in Bethlehem as well as loneliness in your earthly ministry! Help me to show others Your real love, especially now, as well as all year round, and help me to share that love with others, even if it’s just in little acts of kindness. When I feel lonely or confused, let me remember that Your love for me is so great that You would have experienced Your Incarnation and Passion for me even if I were the only person in the world. Amen.
What is Jesus trying to teach us by being born in a cave to die on a cross? That prestige and position in worldly terms don’t matter compared to how much love you actually show God and others. That humility is essential for real love.
If the King of Kings, God incarnate, can embrace humility, why can’t we? And true love for God and neighbor is what Christmas should really be about, not about how much stuff you can put under a tree.
Think of what Jesus went through in that stable in Bethlehem and beyond. Yes there were angels and kings heralding His arrival but there were also shepherds keeping watch over their flocks as our Good Shepherd was born having to use a manger for a crib, as we sing about so often this time of year.
Do you feel alone and dejected at times? So does He, especially nowadays with the church scandals, as well as squabbles over things like Nativity scenes!
Are you facing a world of hurt? So did Jesus, and not just at Calvary, but also in the crib in Bethlehem when Mary and Joseph had to flee with Him to Egypt to keep Him from being killed by the merciless King Herod who, tragically and mistakenly, saw this little baby as muscling in on his turf!
Make “room in the inn”, as it were, for the Christ Child in your heart during this Advent and Christmas season in how you treat others. Smile, offer to help a neighbor, volunteer at a food pantry, or a toy drive, or at your parish. These are all special ways of letting that little baby born in Bethlehem come alive in your heart. Jesus will smile with joy at any act of charity done out of love for Him.
For those of you who are estranged from loved ones or families, think about getting in touch with them in some way, perhaps by phone or by sending a card to let them know you’re thinking about them. If the wounds are too deep for this, you can still pray for them.
God takes great pleasure in our prayers for others. He understands human nature better than anyone and he knows all too well how easily we can be embroiled in various petty quarrels and conflicts, given our fallen nature due to Original Sin. The main thing is to avoid becoming a Grinch or a Scrooge.
Love is ultimately what counts, not our possessions! As John Marie Vianney, the great Patron Saint of Priests, once said “My children, we are in reality only what we are in the eyes of God.” And He will measure our lives on how we loved, not just on how we lived!
And in this season of gift giving, keep in mind a special gift Christ has for each of us: the gift of Himself, and not just at Christmas time but all year round. He is there for us in the Eucharist at Mass and in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, truly present in body, blood, soul, and divinity. And with His Real Presence in the host Jesus has an abundance of graces that he wishes to give you so that you can then be more Christlike to others.
Coming back to my earlier point about feelings of inadequacy at Christmas time, while none of us should ever become overconfident or arrogant, at the same time it is important not to let society at large make you feel like you don’t count, whoever you are. God has a plan and a purpose for each of us. We may not always be able fathom it but He did not create any one of us for nothing.
While you may find that plan to be as much of a mystery as the concept of the Trinity, God in Three Persons, take comfort in the fact that no one is useless in God’s eyes. Don’t let the sham and show of the world get you down! Especially nowadays!
Think of St. Therese of Lisieux’s Little Way and remember that, as she discovered, even the smallest actions can have great merit when done out of love for God. Your kindness and generosity of spirit, even in little things can make someone’s day, maybe even their Christmas!
No one needs to feel worthless in this world. There are always people who could use your help in various ways as you spread our Lord’s charity and genuine love! If nothing else, your prayers and penitential offerings for them have more value to God than you can ever imagine!
It is said that St. Jerome, one of the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church, once offered our Lord his recently finished translation of the Holy Bible one Christmas in a grotto outside Bethlehem. Jesus asked him to give him his sins as a more welcome Birthday gift! Along this line, Advent, this three to four weeks right before Christmas, is an especially good time to go to confession.
Speaking of which, the late John Cardinal O’Connor once wrote about a profound experience he once had in the confessional. His confessor told His Eminence that the little baby Jesus was born in the midst of the very sins he was telling him about. And that Christ did this for his salvation, and would have done so even if he were the only person in the world. The cardinal realized that this was a great reason for hope. That’s how much you are loved. That’s how much our Lord values humanity.
So in this Advent and Christmas season don’t be afraid to give Jesus your foibles, your worries, your doubts and your sins, as well as your love, in prayer, and in spontaneous conversation or mental prayer with him; but also in confession.
And remember there is an eternity that beckons at the end of this life where every day will be an unending Christmas of love and joy in the presence of Almighty God, beauty and peace that one can scarcely comprehend in this life. Make good use of this time, to help God make you worthy of heaven. Keep your eyes on the prize!