As the school year comes to a slow pause for Christmas vacation, let’s all remember that we are the ones who bring the worry and frustration and irritability to the season of glad tidings. Quite the contrary, the conclusion of Advent brings new life in the person of Jesus the Christ (“anointed one”) and in turn directs us to remember what true joy means.
Being joyful doesn’t mean you are an unrealistic optimist. It doesn’t even mean that you’re happy more often than you’re not. Joyful is the disposition of recognizing the inherent value of all things. It is smiling when we hear the phrase “bad weather” or “good trip” because life is not meant to be a series of binary options: good/bad, light/dark, happy/sad. We may use them to express how we’re feeling at a given point in time but it’s important to remind ourselves that if we truly see God in all things then being joyful is being fully present and aware of creation that surrounds us.
This holiday season let’s be mindful of the sights and sounds that envelop us, not the tenor of a singer’s voice or the cascading lights on trees but in the everyday. Be more mindful during your daily walk or simply listen to the chatter of family members around the table. Whatever it is, practice joy by giving gratitude for the gift of being present to those we love and those who love us…simply because.
It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!
Ten years ago, my parents recorded an audio book of “The Night Before Christmas” as a gift for (at the time) our only son Gabriel. At the end of the story, they say his name wishing him a Merry Christmas. When we listened to the book the other night with both boys (Daniel was born in ’14), Daniel turned to me incredulously and said, “Well, that was dark,” noting the absence of any reference to him in my parents’ remarks. I then had to awkwardly explain to him that there was a time when he was not yet here and it gave me pause to think about what it means for someone to simply not be. During the season of Advent, my thoughts were drawn to the manger and its empty space.
Nativity scenes decorate our homes, places of worship, and work spaces. Until Christmas morning, our focus is on an empty manger; a common, less than regal, bed for a savior. It’s anything but special and yet it is in that space that we wait patiently for a great event to happen, for someone to become. We embrace the time that he is not yet here. But even in that space of hope, of new beginnings, we know how the story ends. Our faith calls us to realize that the birth of Christ must lead to the Cross. The Cross of the Resurrection is what transforms this world into new life through the Kingdom of God: “already, but not yet” built in our lifetime. The building of of the Kingdom calls us to continue the waiting, the work, the struggle. In short, the empty manger allows us to realize the fullness of new life in the Easter miracle!
As we meditate on the birth of Jesus, let’s remember that through his life God entered our world in an otherwise forgettable setting. A king, born in a stable surrounded by livestock, changed our world and how we come to see our place in it. May we always remember what it means to empty ourselves into the lives of one another and to realize that the Christmas miracle continues to reveal itself in every moment of every day.
It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!