Notes from a Friar: Holding On to Christmas

Boy sitting by Christmas Tree

This Christmas, I hope you are feeling the deep joy of Jesus’ presence, in spite of so many recent challenges. I also pray that you allow that joy to stay with you for many days!

For me, the place to start is the stable in Bethlehem. St. Ignatius of Loyola suggests imagining yourself as a participant in the story. Taking off my shoes—it’s a holy place—I slip into the corner of the stable. Mary is shivering from the cold, but clutching Jesus close to keep him warm. Joseph is there, attentive to Mary’s every need. This tiny baby, powerless, totally dependent on Mary and Joseph, is also God. God become human—not as an emperor or a scholar—but as a baby. From my corner of the stable, I can only be silent in amazement.

St. Francis of Assisi wanted to experience the poverty and hardship that Mary and Joseph felt that first Christmas. He asked a friend to set up a manger with straw, an ox, and a donkey on the hillside at Greccio. The brothers and townsfolk came with torches to light the night. At the manger, they prayed before the image of the baby. Later, they adored his real, true presence at the Christ-Mass.

Good Will to All

Christmas seems to pass so quickly. Gone for another year is the graced time of family love and togetherness—the spirit of good will. The Church extends the celebration for eight days. But when the poinsettia petals fall, Christmas trees come down and lights are stored away, it seems that Christmas is gone. If only we could hold on to Christmas!

But what part of Christmas can’t we continue to enjoy? Jesus is the heart of Christmas; he stays with us. With him and our faith community, we will share the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, his passion, death, and triumphant resurrection. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).

Even though Christmas will be over in a couple of days, we can actively gift our loved ones. We continue to celebrate Christ’s presence and action in our world. We can express our Christmas spirit in being gracious to coworkers and to all who assist us. The homeless are still with us. Soup kitchens need our help. Our donations to the refugees from Syria and Iraq honor Mary and Joseph fleeing with their son to Egypt.

“With Christ, joy is constantly born anew,” Pope Francis has said. Emmanuel—God with us! We have the opportunity of joining with our high priest in giving thanks and praise at every Christ-Mass.

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