As children we had an amazing sense of wonder; we were fascinated by the world and all of its creation. The world was full of mystery and awe. Somehow, as we grew older the natural gift of wonder God gave us as children grew tired with the busyness and anxieties of life. We have somehow managed to let wonder go to sleep.
Jesus tells us to, ‘Stay awake (Matthew 24:42).’ Advent says, ‘Wake up and realise the gifts of love you have received.’ Spirituality says, ‘Wake up’ and ‘withdraw from the busyness of daily life, and to wake up to the spiritual depths of ourselves and the God who loves us.’
Christmas is not merely the recollection of the event that took place 2000 years ago. It is actually about the reality of the power of God taking on the frailty of a tiny baby. The mystery of the Holy Night must be lived as a spiritual event. The Word who found a dwelling in Mary’s womb comes to knock on the heart of every person this Christmas.
The feast of St Nicholas comes at the beginning of Advent and the beginning of the shopping season. St Nicholas says, ‘Keep it simple!’ ‘Keep it simple enough to fit in a shoe or a stocking.’ Perhaps our gift cards this year might read: ‘The gift I give to you is half an hour of quality conversation each night right after the dishes are done.’ Or, ‘The gift I give to you is one Saturday a month to be with you and do whatever you want to do.’
The festive season is a time of celebration, but for many Australians the festivities also mean extra pressures, like buying gifts and attending many social gatherings. Holiday periods have been associated with higher levels of depression, and one study found that suicide rates increased on the days following holidays. Another reported a 40% increase in suicides in the days following Christmas.
Christmas is about opening our hearts generously, facing our fears and starting all over again. When things are at their worst, someone up there holds us with love in the palm of His hand, giving us comfort no words can even describe. Christmas is about giving and sharing our blessings. It is about thanking people for the smile they brought into our life. It is about love, forgiveness and second chances. It is about renewing our hopes, dreams and faith. The simplicity of the birth of Jesus has given Christians pause to realise that God chose to communicate the great mystery of His love and mercy by sending us the least threatening divine presence we can imagine — a small child totally dependent on His parents.
Christmas reminds us that power is borne of weakness and strength of humility, and that the meek ultimately can inherit the earth. So, in the midst of all our Christmas preparations, can we take time to realise who is born on Christmas Day? Can we reflect that Christmas is a time when God in His humility shows us, if not who we are, at least what we can strive to be?
The incarnation of Jesus is a grace we get to experience over and over. Here is the hope that we need to be able to overcome the many challenges life throws at us. That hope is ours in Christ. Jesus comes into our world with every prayer we breathe. The celebrations do end, and the decorations get put away, but the life of the party remains.
May the light of Jesus shine within us and illuminate the lives of those around us. May we experience the goodness of God’s grace reborn in every kind work and every helping hand, not just today, but every day. May the light, the hope and the joy of Christmas remain with us always. In that spirit, we can extend ourselves in yearlong gift-giving, not offering immense gifts, but in providing little things that, one by one, make our neighbour’s lives holier, healthier and happier.