But to be honest, it’s really the run-up to Christmas that I love. And despite the commercialisation of Christmas, I love the carols in the shops, the street lights, the Father Christmases and their Ho Ho Ho’s, and all the general Christmas silliness on the High Street. I love the drawing in of the night and the crisp coldness in the air, the overdecorated houses with their multicoloured lights, the feel-good Christmas movies on television, and listening to different renditions of all the Christmas songs on the radio. Putting up the tree and decorating while listening to carols, the Christmas shopping and the variety of baked goods and turkeys and hams in the shops. I love all of it and look forward to Christmas every year. I know that these are the very things that some people dislike about Christmas and find that it detracts from the true Christmas reality, but I am one of those suckers who gets taken in by this and enjoys it all.
There is something different and magical in the air around Christmas, people feel it and give expression to it in all sorts of ways. Their longing for something other than the ordinary, for something to let them know that despite the drudgery and tedium of many of their days, there is something alive and vibrant and mysterious in the world expresses itself in the overdone glamour and over-the-top celebrating at Christmas time. We all long to escape the often barren shabbiness and pale sterility of so much in our world, and at Christmas we are given free rein to let our imaginations soar and our spirits celebrate. Even for those who do not believe in Christ, Christmas is a time of goodwill, and in the midst of all the Christmas sparkle and the expectant hope of the season, our hearts are softened towards each other and our spirits warmed by the goodness of those around us. So even if many people do not celebrate Christmas in the ‘true spirit’ nor acknowledge that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ they nevertheless gain a glimpse of and share an experience of the love and joy that He brings into our lives.
“The Lord makes the sun to shine on the good and the bad alike” and His mercy and kindness shown in the birth of the Christ-child is for all people whether they know Him or not. The gift of love is offered to all of at this time, and its power to change hearts and help us find our way back to each other is not limited to a few, but is open to all. The Christmas spirit and the fun and silliness, the songs and carols, the gift giving and gift receiving, despite being commercialised, is a sign and a reminder that something special has happened and is happening. It lets us know, even if we do not acknowledge it, that our world is alive with the presence of He who has come, He who is with us, and He who comes anew in our hearts every Christmas.
The Star of Bethlehem calls to us. It calls us out of our secure spaces and insistently summons us to where we know not. Like the Magi of old, in wonder and faith we follow its guiding light, leaving behind old certainties and familiar comforts. It’s wondrous light ignites again our youthful ideals and energises our weary faith. Where does it lead us? No matter where it leads, that is where we are called to find the Christ-child, God in our midst. And just like the Magi of old, we obediently follow until we come to an unexpected place that is not at all where we hoped to find the presence of the Living God. And like the Magi of old, kneel in adoration at the presence of the divine in the midst of lowliness, need, and rejection. Even in these places God is present. Nay, especially in these places God is present. And like the Magi of old, we open our hearts and give the gifts needed to that place where God lives. Gifts of self and love that illumine and transform the suffering and loneliness of those whom we find there in that place where God dwells. The Star now shines in our hearts as we rejoice at the wonder of divine love among us, with us, and within us.
Fr. Terence Bateman OFM Conv.