In Search of the “Lost Christmas”

The approach of the holiday season usually finds me in search of what I like to call the “lost Christmas,” a fantasy combination of childhood memories. A treasured ornament, a worn, shabby Santa figure, an heirloom nativity scene—all these can evoke powerful recollections of how I remember Christmas as a child, when life was less complicated. It’s probably closer to fantasy than reality, since I can easily “edit out” unpleasant memories.

It’s easy to get caught up in Christmas nostalgia and forget the central truth of the season. The birth of Jesus Christ means God is breaking into our troubled world. In the preparations of the Advent season, Christians turn the pages of the Bible, where sacred texts urge them to wake up to what’s happening here and now. In this hour of salvation, we must be prepared, focused on making our hearts ready to receive God at every moment in our lives.

Our American Catholic Radio programs in this season will focus on Mary, the prophet Isaiah, and a series of reflections which I’ll be doing on the Sunday readings each week. These and other offerings on ACR are designed to bring you closer to the mystery of Jesus’ birth.

Without letting go of fond memories, it’s my hope this year to focus more on the Good News that the season celebrates, the birth of hope into our midst. It might make a difference in how I relate to all the frantic preparations for the externals of Christmas; a true change of heart might open me to the peace promised by Isaiah, the prophet whose words echo through this season. That would make for some new memories of this season, to carry into the future.