When I was in second grade, my school did a Christmas variety show, and my class acted out the lyrics to the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” I was assigned the role of “Mom” from the line: “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.” It was a 5-second role, and I owned it! But I’m a little sad to report that in my childhood, I never had the opportunity to be in an official church Christmas pageant. No role in a nativity play. No shepherd or angel performance. Instead, I sat in the audience more than a few times…watching the beautiful story of the birth of our Savior take place on a stage from across the room.
I wonder how many of us approach the season of Advent that same way. We’re in the audience waiting for the show to start. We want a front row seat to watch the story of the birth of Jesus and the beauty of the first Christmas. Our role is an enjoyable but passive one.
I would encourage you to step out of the audience and join the players on the stage! You are part of God’s ongoing story of salvation. We each have an important role to play—your role is unique, and only you can play it. Speaker and author Elizabeth M. Kelly writes: “Allow the Holy Spirit to refresh a Catholic imagination within you and to remind you that you are an integral, irreplaceable part of a much larger and more important story.”
How will you play your role this Advent season and beyond? What unique aspects of love and sincerity will you bring to your performance? Who will your scene partners be? Perhaps your part in the story is providing a listening ear to a lonely friend. You may be called to provide food and warm clothes for those in need. Your part in the story may involve making room for Jesus in your heart and in your home. Unlike the innkeeper, will Jesus find in you a place to dwell and grow and shine?
Maybe you’re not one to step into the spotlight. That’s ok! There are plenty of behind-the-scenes roles to play that are just as important. Like the lighting crew up in the rafters, maybe your role is to point that spotlight on someone else, giving them confidence and encouragement to shine. Maybe you’re being called to be part of God’s “stage crew,” organizing and setting the stage for projects and programs that will help others.
However you decide to take part in God’s story, it’s important that you realize how valued and essential you are. The “Christmas Story” would not be complete without you!
Advent is a season of waiting. A time to prepare for the coming of Christ. A period of anticipation. In general, how do you view the experience of waiting? Some people find it very difficult. They don’t have the patience or the trust to let the process unfold the way it’s meant to. (There are plenty of times when I fall into this category!) Research has shown that over the years people expect things to happen faster and faster. The pace of pedestrians walking on sidewalks has sped up. Road rage is more common. Waiting in line feels like agony for many people.
Other people welcome waiting because of how they choose to view it—as an act of anticipation instead of a waste of time. I have always felt that looking forward to an exciting event (a trip, a party, a special occasion) was just as enjoyable as the event itself. My husband tells me I live my life “looking forward to the next thing.” During this year of the pandemic, we’ve all been forced to put many of our plans on hold. It’s not easy, particularly in celebrating the holidays. My niece, Lucy —in her lovely optimistic way—predicted that next year, our holiday season will feel all the more joyful, because of how long we had to wait to gather with our families. Every hug will feel like a small miracle. The waiting is incredibly painful right now, but the joy that will come fills me with hope and excitement.
The season of Advent ushers in the coming of Christ, but we aren’t simply remembering that long-ago time of waiting for the birth of Jesus, something that happened 2000 years ago. Our waiting is active, and present, and alive. During Advent, there are three layers to our waiting:
Waiting for Jesus to be born (past)
Waiting for Jesus to come into our lives every day (present)
Waiting for Jesus to come again in glory (future)
It’s the second one—the everyday waiting—that I’m focused on these days. My college-aged sons have a car now, so when they come home from school, I never quite know when they’ll arrive. That excited feeling of wondering when they’ll walk through the door is so filled with hope. What if we approached every day with this sense of faith-filled anticipation? When or how will Christ come to us today? When will Jesus walk through the door of our hearts?
Each day brings opportunities for an encounter with our loving God…during a phone call with a friend, a walk with a family member, or an email exchange with a co-worker. Or you may find God while walking in the woods, admiring a sunset, or listening to the ocean. Christ may come to you in your art—through music, writing or any creative act.
In Latin, Advent means “coming,” not “finding.” We don’t have to go out and search for Jesus. Christ will come no matter what—that’s the core of our belief as Christians. We simply have to notice when He comes into our lives. This is a daily invitation—not just for the four weeks of Advent—but for every day throughout the year. Wake up each morning and ask yourself: “When will I encounter God today?” These moments are easy to miss when we’re preoccupied and distracted, so be awake and watchful in your waiting. Hold onto that excited feeling of waiting for a beloved family member to walk through the door, and I promise you won’t miss the moment when Jesus comes to you in your day.
As men and women of faith, Christmas means a lot of different things to us. It’s a season of hope, love, and promise. It’s a time of stillness, joy, and praise. It’s about peace. But if you boil it down to its very essence, Christmas is really about one thing.
The birth of Jesus Christ is the quiet and stunning moment in time when God became human.
As Max Lucado ponders in his book An Angel’s Story: “Jesus entered our world not like a human but as a human. He endured puberty, pimples, hot weather, and cranky neighbors. God became human down to his very toes. He had suspended the stars and ladled out the seas, yet he suckled a breast and slept in hay.”
Why did he do this?
God is all powerful, all knowing, and perfect. Why would He come to us as a human being, with all the limitations that come with being human?
Hundreds and hundreds of books can be written on this topic – God became human to save us, to die for us, to help us know God and become more like Him. I believe one of the reasons God did this was to understand our suffering. Jesus entered a world filled with the vast range of human emotions…including pain. He experienced it himself. He cried tears of grief and sorrow when his friend Lazarus died. He felt the brutal betrayal of Judas Iscariot. He experienced the pain of each nail as he was crucified. I don’t believe there’s any measure of pain we experience that Jesus didn’t experience too during his time on earth.
God does not want us to see Him as a remote and distant figure. He wants our relationship with Him to be everything. He wants to know everything about us and feel everything that we feel. This was accomplished in Jesus Christ and the life he lived on earth. As Max Lucado goes on to say: “He wants you to know that he gets you. He understands how you feel and has faced what you face.”
As the Christmas season comes to an end, let us contemplate the wonderful gift that God has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Yesterday’s liturgy marked the official end of our Christmas season. What was the best gift you received this year? I was lucky to get a Fitbit® and I’ve been having so much fun with it. Since December 26 I’ve walked the equivalent of 70 miles. Hard to believe, but a great feeling! As I watched my boys happily examining their Christmas bounty, it got me thinking about gifts from my own childhood. The one that sticks in my mind is from 1978. All year I wished and hoped for the “Pretty Changes” Barbie doll. She had a series of hair extensions, hats, and accessories allowing you to change her look from day-to-day. I was filled with joy to find her under the Christmas tree, and she was by far the best gift I got that year.
Several months later, in a minor tussle with my older sister, my doll’s head broke off. Feeling awful, my sister valiantly tried to glue it back on, but didn’t quite get it on straight. As a result, my Barbie had a thick and stubby neck, and permanently looked smugly off to the side, never meeting the gaze of her Barbie doll friends.
I lost my enthusiasm to play with “Pretty Changes” after that. She was broken…and I had no use for broken things. Continue reading →
It’s that season again. When countless sermons and blog posts deliver the same message: we’re doing Christmas all wrong. We’re focusing on the trappings and the noise instead of the true meaning of Christmas. Through all the gift giving and party planning, we’re forgetting whose birthday it really is. The stress of planning and decorating is distracting us from what’s really important.
My reaction to these statements… THEY ARE NOT HELPFUL AT ALL!
This commentary (for you can’t even really call it advice) is not rooted in a woman’s reality. We can’t abandon these things, because it’s our job. There’s a quote you’ve probably heard by British poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy: “We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.” (You may remember Willy Wonka saying this line in the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) Well, as women, we are the Christmas makers and we are the creators of Christmas dreams. Our job is making memories…and it’s an incredibly valuable one. Continue reading →
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
On the night our Savior came into the world, there was no room for him. I can only imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt. Tired and dusty from the long trip through Galilee and Judea. Mary, heavy with child, uncomfortable, frightened, knowing with a woman’s intuition that her time was near. Joseph, realizing with dread that they would not make it home in time, and their child would have to be born here, in Bethlehem. This brave couple, so very young and alone, desperately searching for a safe place to give birth, only to be told there was no room at the local inn.
John the Baptist says: “The Kingdom of Heaven is near” … “Prepare the way of the Lord!” Just like that innkeeper in Bethlehem, during this holy season of Advent, we are being asked to make room for Jesus in our lives…in our hearts…and the world.