Making Christmas about you opens the door to Christ’s presence in every part of your life
I have what may seem like an unusual request. In these final days of Advent, I would like you to imagine that this Christmas is about you. You already hear many commercial and friendly voices inviting you to be self-indulgent these days. Why would I want to add my voice to that holiday chorus? And at the same time, you may be pushing yourself to find that last gift or two to fill out someone else’s wish list. The pressure is on to make Christmas about them.
In the midst of those voices and social pressures, I invite you to make Christmas more personal, more about you. I am not encouraging selfishness. Rather, I am encouraging a humble acceptance of God’s loving plan for you and me, an openness to receive a gift that touches your deepest desire. Let me explain.
At Christmas, we remember the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem many years ago. The Son of God became man and made his home with us. There were a lot of practical details involved in his birth. The Gospels make a point of mentioning some of them, such as who the emperor was, where Mary and Joseph had to lodge, the shepherds, the angels, the star, the Magi, Herod’s evil designs and actions, the quick trip to take refuge in Egypt. It is true Jesus has come in human history, at a particular time and place.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that the significance of Jesus’ coming is somehow limited by those details and circumstances of the first Christmas. What good would it be to you or me if Jesus had been born 2,000 years ago but he were not active as our Savior today? The truth is, the very real details surrounding the birth of Jesus help us understand how God plans to act in our time to save us.
Jesus does not come to us now as a baby. He is the risen Lord of heaven and earth, yet he remains our Savior. He demonstrates his saving power in the practical circumstances of our lives, if we will let him in. Because Jesus is Lord, we cannot have him on our own terms. Because he is our brother, he makes himself small enough to meet us where we have been wounded by the effects of sin, to heal us. He comes to you this Christmas in a personal way, if you will receive him and acknowledge your need to be saved. He makes Christmas very much about you.
Reflecting on the first coming of Jesus, we begin to see how this might be so. For example, Jesus desires to be with us in our physical suffering. He shares our humanity, he knows what it means to suffer in his body. We should not hesitate to welcome Jesus where we experience the burden of illness or infirmity. When our bodies (as well as our spirits) have been wounded and enslaved by addiction to alcohol, to drugs, to pornography, Jesus desires to heal and free us.
Our Savior did not enter the world alone, and he valued vibrant human relationships throughout his life and ministry. He shared life at home, with Mary and Joseph. He enjoyed the company of his disciples. He seemed to be attracted to the sick, the marginalized, the sinner. Don’t hesitate to invite Jesus into your own relationships this Christmas. Between spouses, among family members, with neighbors, and co-workers, Jesus wants to bring respect and love. What might the Savior bring to these relationships of yours if he were invited in?
Even though Jesus is the Lord of creation, he made himself subject to the limits of times and seasons, of days and hours. For most people I know, time is a big problem. Time can weigh heavily on the elderly, the chronically ill, and the imprisoned. Many others experience time as a cruel master, goading them to try to accomplish an impossible number of tasks in too little time. Jesus would like to get on your calendar. He wants to share time with you. He wants you to begin to know the peace of being saved today, not in some uncertain future. Jesus has no desire to compete with you for your time. Invite him in and you will meet a Savior, not a competitor.
We have the joy of celebrating Christmas this year, even though we have celebrated it many times already. Our lives are different from when we were children. Just in the last year circumstances have changed. Jesus comes to meet us where we find ourselves right now, with our virtues and our vices. In particular, his heart is open to you. He wants this Christmas to be about you, your healing, your faith, your experience of true peace.
You can count on my prayers during these holy days for you and those you love. I ask God to bless you, in the words that are spoken at the conclusion of Midnight Mass:
May God of infinite goodness,
who by the Incarnation of his Son
has driven darkness from the world
and by that glorious Birth has illumined
this most holy night
drive far from you the darkness of vice
and illumine your hearts with the light of virtue.
May God, who willed that the great joy
of his Son’s saving Birth
be announced to shepherds by the Angel,
fill your minds with the gladness he gives
and make you heralds of his Gospel.
And may God, who by the Incarnation
brought together the earthly and heavenly realm,
fill you with the gift of his peace and favor
and make you sharers with the Church in heaven.