Detachment for the season: Any semblance of Christmases past.

  • No family celebrations.
  • Kids aren’t coming home.
  • The Advent wreath is packed away because…🙄 I forgot to buy candles.

I told my spiritual director that this Advent somehow feels hollow.  He, with great wisdom, suggested that I meditate on the first Christmas.

There was no room for the Holy Family that night in Bethlehem.

No lights, no decked halls, no tree or ornaments, no Oplatki (yes, I’m a little Polish), no “A Christmas Story” playing all day on repeat, no pretty boxes wrapped in red and green, no cutout cookies, no carols in the background, and no homemade wine with a good game of Apples to Apples.

They had the only thing that truly mattered: a beautifully perfect, newborn, baby boy named Jesus.

COVID has been my spiritual wakeup call.

Family will always be important and I already miss my kids. Those traditions, the tree, the wreath, cookies, and games all celebrate family.  They provide memories of  those who have gone before, and offer visible signs of hope to future generations. Much has been stripped away this year, and that’s okay.  Because… well, Jesus.

Over the last few years, Christian communities have tried to remind secular celebrants of the fundamental meaning of Christmas, the Incarnation.  God made man.  But, until Christians seriously take this to heart themselves by living the Gospel and developing a relationship with Jesus, the message of “keep Christ with Christmas” will continue to be nothing more than a t-shirt slogan.

Strip away the tinsel, trimmings, and ugly sweaters.  If you don’t know Jesus, the 25th of December becomes just another day on the calendar.

I can’t imagine what Joseph and Mary might think of our obsession with all the externals when the only thing that truly mattered was that the Savior of the world was born safe, healthy, and surrounded by great love.

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you’ll take some time before Christmas for yourself.  Find a quiet space and close your eyes.  Forget about the shopping list, the stockings, the cookies, the tree, and whatever else occupies your cluttered thoughts.

Now, imagine a quiet, dark and musty room dimly lit by an oil lamp. Only Mary and her husband Joseph occupy this space, although they may share it with sheep and a donkey or two.  The young Mary is pregnant with her firstborn; Joseph lovingly rubs her back and wipes the sweat from her brow.  He tells her how much he loves her, and she lovingly looks at him.  She recalls the words that the angel spoke nine months before:

“Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.'” (Luke 1:30-33)

She smiles, caresses her holy belly and gives praise knowing in just a few moments she will hold the Son of the Most High in her arms.  Mary is relishing these final, intimate moments before the business of motherhood begins.  (Even the Mother of God will have to cook, do the laundry, and chase after the Savior of the World as He toddles and gets into everything.)

Let’s not forget Joseph.  He understands that after tonight he will be sharing his wife, Mary, with the Child Jesus. Life will be very different; he gives praise to God for choosing him to be the protector of the Mother of God and her Son, the Light of the World.

One private moment that will forever change history. What was foretold by the prophets is upon them.  Salvation has come!

I finally get it.  The tree isn’t fully decorated and won’t be.  I’ll see our family on Zoom.  Jerry and I will have a quiet dinner from the leftover turkey breast that I froze from Thanksgiving. Apropos, I think.

Today is Sunday.  Christmas is in five days.  I believe I’m finally getting it.

Jesus wants my heart.

I’m ready to give it to Him – wrapped in fidelity, tied with ribbons of love, and topped with a bow of humility.

On the other hand… my dad’s linguini and clam sauce.  Now, that’s something I’ll truly miss while we Zoom this year.

Pray for me as I pray for you.

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