Children are the best at being excited. Nothing can touch them in their ability to engage in simple raw thrill. They dance, they wiggle, they screech with joy, racing from place to place, in a bout of pent-up energy and enthusiasm for whatever they are anticipating.
Nothing is more anticipatory than Christmas.
Indeed, it used to be that after Thanksgiving we had a week or so to kind of get ready, to organize our lists and plans before we began the preparations for the big day. No more, in fact Christmas intrudes upon Thanksgiving, taking away whatever peaceful thanks we originally enjoyed in that day. We must now, if we are into bargains, supposed to spend part of our Thanksgiving standing in lines and racing through stores to get those “to the first 50 customers” bargains.
It is not the fault of our kids that they are reminded from before Halloween that Santa is not far behind.
They are understandably in a tizzy, but as adults, so are we, for we are hammered upon to keep up with all the doings of the season. We must decorate, not just on the inside but on the outside as well to make sure that we are showing the appropriate amount holiday joy. We must bake and cook up creative desserts and cookies. We must plan the holiday feast. We must mail out cards and that is not sufficient, we must include “yearly updates” to far-flung friends and relatives to “catch them up” on our lives, or our accomplishments at least.
Last and most important, we must shop ’til we drop and then wrap everything in delightful wrapping and bows to elicit loud oohs and aahs on Christmas morn.
And we must do all this, while perhaps still working a job, getting a meal on the table every night, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, attending to all our other little tasks as well as all the new ones that come alone this time of year, such as school pageants and office parties.
Is it any wonder that adults are frazzled and short-tempered?
Is it any wonder that the most famous of all holiday songs in our families are “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with the harsh admonitions to “better not pout, better not cry”! Our kids are unable to contain themselves, and parents demand they do!
Our readings today bring us back to reality. Indeed, they show us how to handle this massive commercial extravaganza. It places it all into perspective.
While we are all fond of saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season” we don’t act that way often.
Finally, brothers and sisters,
we earnestly ask and exhort youin the Lord Jesus that,
as you received from us
how you should conduct yourselves to please God
and as you are conducting yourselves
you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus
So Paul tells the Thessalonians. Conduct yourself in the way that we showed you. Remember how we acted toward you. Act thusly toward others. This is what will please the Lord.
In Luke, Jesus explains how we should not act:
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Of course, Jesus was not speaking about Christmas, he was speaking about the time of his return, a time unknown to even him.
But it is telling isn’t it. This is the season for that “carousing and drunkenness”; this is the time when the “anxieties of daily life” distract us from our purpose. We are constantly making lists and checking them twice. We are designing our driving routes to be efficient. We are planning meals to keep room in the fridge, and eat up left-overs. We are looking for the quick meals–no doubt the fast food markets do a booming business at this time of year. We are busy.
So busy that we barely find the time to squeeze in a Sunday service, and no doubt we are off to the mall as soon as the last amen is uttered.
Yet, what are we modeling here?
Are we creating more slightly schizophrenic children, who will grow up to engage in their own forms of insane busy-ness all the while screaming at their kids to “knock it off” or you won’t be seeing Santa this year? Are we modeling frenetic behavior as the “way it is” around the end of the year? Are we racing from store to store, with last second shouting orders of “don’t forget to pick up the wine from the vendor!” as your spouse heads out the door on yet another round of must do tasks?
There is such a peace offered at this time of year, if only we will be open to it, and sit down! If we can relax with a cup of tea and enjoy the view of hearth or window. If we can reflect on what Mary and Joseph were thinking as these days went by. If we can reflect on our last year, and our wins and losses and our plans and our dreams, and our hopes. If we can examine them in light of the Lord and see if we are in alignment with what we should be hoping and dreaming about.
There is the peace of a babe born in the quiet of a cold night.
There is the peace of the hopes and dreams of a people being fulfilled in that manger.
There is the love of God expressed in the lowing of the cattle and the brightness of the stars above.
This is the season of hope.
This is the season of deeply felt thanksgiving for the year about to pass into the next.
This is the season to slow down and think deeply about who and what we are, who was Jesus, and how we fit in this quilt of God’s love.
Take time each day for quiet reflection.
The cookies will be made, the tree will get trimmed, the gifts will get bought. All will happen in the time allotted.
Give your children, friends and family the gift of attention to them, the joy of laughter and talk, the ultimate gift of your time.
God is in his heaven, all is right with the world.
- Some Thoughts on First Advent (kelund.wordpress.com)
- Carissimi: Sunday’s Mass; Advent I (frjeromeosjv.wordpress.com)
- Getting Through the Season with the Right Attitude (llblog2010.wordpress.com)