Monday, December 24, 2018
Allegorically, some people are dealing tonight with the prickliness of the straw in the manger, the poverty and loneliness and the bitter cold of that night. Mary had - a few months previously - gone to help her cousin St. Elizabeth with her birth. But there was no one to return that favor. Mary herself gave birth with no woman at hand, in a stable, with the smell and sound of animals around. How hard it must have been for St. Joseph, too, not to be able to offer a comfortable bed, a pillow, a little fire for warmth, for Mary and Baby Jesus.
For many people, celebrating Christmas is not what I think of when I think of the word "merry". For many, it's not the idyllic Norman Rockwell picture. There are those who are alone or who are sick, or who are both alone and sick. There are those who are lonely in the midst of many people and those who are overwhelmed. There are those of us who are missing loved ones who have passed on. As we get older, we might be missing a whole parade of loved ones, remembering those holidays of old, which we may have idealized over the years.
We heap expectations on the holiday and on ourselves. Homes sparkling, food abundant, decorations perfect. Everyone together and getting along. But often it falls short of the expectations. We don't have to make it perfect. It wasn't perfect at Bethlehem. The most perfect people did not have the most perfect Christmas, in the sense that we often set ourselves up for.
Let's stop to breathe, stop to say a momentary prayer for the stranger we run into who seems harried; for our neighbor or friend; and for our family member who is far from us (either in heart and mind or geographically)....even just a very quick thought sent heavenward in the midst of a very busy day. And let's remember to breathe.
May we all have peace and hope in our hearts at Christmas. May the Christ Child console us in our concerns, in our memories, in our sorrows for loved ones.
May we have a Christmas that brings to us, even in the midst of whatever sufferings we may have, the abiding, deep joy of the birth of Jesus, the peace that passes understanding.