This time of the year, Christmas, has always held a special place in my heart. As a child, it was a magical time when dreams and reality blend in the mind and thoughts of the child. The lights, the colors, the smells, the food, the anticipation all combine to create this blending of dreamland and reality. As an adult, I still view this time as magical, but for a different reason. The new reason, for me, is my spiritual belief of the season.
In my spiritual belief, this is the time of the year when my God, my higher power, humbles Himself to such a degree as to become a mere human, the Creator becoming the creation. How magical and unreal is this! How much love and caring must my God have for creation to become one of creation?
Since my God becomes a human, born into a family of humans on a particular day in a particular year at a particular place, my spiritual reflection is based on a "realism" approach, focusing on the thoughts and emotions of the real people involved. This allows us, as real people, to better connect with the spiritual aspects of Christmas.
That magical time of the year when all seems to be at peace; when nature seems still, wars have paused, enemies have celebrated together, kids believe in magic and the hope of treasure. A time when most of us recall how we spent the season as a child, longing once again for that simplicity of life. Amidst all the secular commercialization, this time of the year still seems to hold a special place in our hearts and mind.
In a little town in Italy, named Greccio, in the year 1223, St. Francis of Assisi, led an evening prayer service for the townspeople. To make the event meaningful he decided to recreate, live, the nativity scene of the birth of Jesus. Prior to this event, the displaying of nativity scenes was unheard of. But for St. Francis, the importance of the nativity event was in his belief that it was a real event. Historically, in the town of Bethlehem, a child, later to be named Jesus by his parents, was born. Francis, believing that this child was the son of God born into our world, wanted the people of Greccio to fully understand that our God is approachable and humble for He was born as one of us. What better way to explain this concept than by reenacting the scene with real people! As a result, over a thousand years removed from the town of Greccio, people worldwide display Nativity scenes.
In my reflections, I ask myself, “This Christmas how can I make real that which happened over 2,000 years ago”? Every year, since I was a child until now, I watch the classic show "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". The original version brings back so many fond memories, and now as an adult, I continue to enjoy it for the meaning of the story. The Grinch couldn't take away Christmas by taking away the people's "stuff". Christmas, for the Who's in Whoville, meant a lot more than what they had or didn't have. For them, Christmas was an internal experience of the heart. A deeper sense of what the season is all about.
What is Christmas all about? Is it the birth of a child, the son of God, into the world? And if so, what does that mean for me today? The humble birth of Jesus is a sign of the love God has for us, and that love needs to be put into action in the love we have for others. In order for us to fully love another, we first need to love and respect ourselves. As God becomes one of us He shows us the importance of us as humans. If God respects us than we also need to respect ourselves We were worthy enough for our Lord to become one of us, it is important for us to feel that worthiness within ourselves. When we love ourselves we are more fully able to love those around us, and that outpouring of love makes "real" the presence of God in our lives.
So, what is this season all about? Loving ourselves and loving others so that the love of God may be present in our world. This is what St. Francis tried to show the people of Greccio. I hope Francis' message continues today in the nativity scenes we have set up.
This Christmas season find ways to make Jesus real in the lives of others. If we all did this, gave the present of love to another, just think of how different our world be. Each day is a new opportunity for us. Let's take the magic of this season and make today a magical day of love.
As a child, I recall Christmas Eve as one of the longest days ever! As an adult, I find this day filled with anticipation and excitement, for spiritually I know that the next day we commemorate the birth of Jesus my Lord. But today, Christmas Eve, the birth is not my spiritual focus, rather, my focus turns to His mother, Mary.
Mary was an unwed teenager from a small town in a desert who was asked the impossible; to trust so deeply in God when asked to bear God's son. I have no doubt that Mary's "yes" came with some hesitation and trepidation. And I'm sure she did not always have a pleasant time of it when dealing with her future husband, her family, and just the fact of being pregnant in general. Yet, through it all, Mary never gave up.
Jesus was born to this poor teenage girl in a stable in a small town in the far reaches of the Roman empire. He was born to a girl who took a leap of faith and trusted in her God. She persevered, not knowing the outcome. Onward she traveled, despite hardship and fear.
For me, Christmas is not only a time of celebration and remembrance; it is also a time when I feel challenged to live the example set forth by Mary; to trust, in faith, in my God; to persevere along the journey even though I may be scared or not understanding its end or purpose in my life. Today, let's follow the example of Mary, a poor young teenage girl, who struggled the best she could and in the end provided the world with its savior.
On the next page, I share the song "Breath of Heaven" for your reflection. This song sums up how I imagine Mary felt at the time. How do the words speak to you?
One of the reasons for this comic's relevance is that many of us place too high of expectations on ourselves, especially this time of the year. I am not speaking against resolutions in general, but are your resolutions and expectations reasonable? Challenging oneself can be a growth opportunity since through challenges and struggles we learn and grow. But what if you found yourself wanting more once you realized the new year didn't smell any different from the old? What if you realize nothing has changed? For too many of us this is what happens along our journey. We expected a particular day to be one way, and when it wasn't, we were disappointed.
In this new year, when our experiences may not smell as they "should" (according to how I feel they should smell), try to take a moment and look at your situation, the new year, and find a deeper reality. Look beyond yourself to other possibilities. Challenge yourself to learn something new about the world around you. In so doing, I have no doubt that your life's journey will begin to take a new path.