Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Over??

Well, the "Big Day" has come and gone. Untold miles of wrapping paper have been moved from the place of honor--under the tree--to the place of dishonor--the trash. Relatives have come and gone. There may be some egg nog left, but the desire for a normal meal overcomes the formal urge to drown oneself in the silky smooth seasonal treat just one more time. The tree is still up, but its days are now numbered even though no one dares speak of that eventuality just yet. Kids, once excited by the treasures they have inherited, now lay exhausted in warm beds. And parents, in the late night quiet of the house, wonder what became of the time as the fatigue of the last few days of frenetic preparation for the holiday sets in. Somehow, the cold of winter becomes a little more chilling as we are now faced with little to look forward to in the next few months. For many people, we now enter a time of let down. The celebrations are over. Music reconverts to the old standards. Decorations slowly come down as the color of the season gives way to the darkness of the long winter ahead. And the next Christmas in our lives seems so far distant. Christmas is over.

However, that seems to contradict the message of the season that we just passed through. For weeks we have heard, over and over, Christmas music proclaiming peace on earth and good will to men. We have greeted each other in subtly different ways with warmth and kindness. We have proclaimed this season as a joyous time because Christ our Savior is born! Yet, even before the day is ended, we so often hear people returning to life outside the holiday. How strange this is! As followers of Christ, Christmas does not come and go, but, rather, should be a time of beginning.

For you see, Christmas is not what we have just celebrated. We have just celebrated a passage of time marked by parties, gatherings, and yearly rituals that make us all feel a little better about things. We often relive warm memories from the past and celebrate those "good old days" but that is not Christmas either. What do I mean?

Christmas is not an event! Christmas is not a date on the calendar that marks the time of a special period of celebration and then suddenly comes to an end with the beginning of a new day. Christmas is a new way of life guided through the teachings of Jesus Christ. There is a sentimentality about putting up the manger scene under the tree, but there is a real grit to living out on a day-to-day basis what that crib means. It means loving one another despite our differences and hurts. It means reaching out to those in need even though we may have very little in the way of material goods ourselves. It means laying aside differences between family members in an attempt to forgive and reconcile just as the Master taught. It means serving and sacrificing. It means preaching the Word of God through our life-style more than simple, empty platitudes.

If we live in accord with the teachings of Christ, then Christmas truly never ends. It becomes a way of living, not just a date or season on the calendar. During this time of the year, we read in sacred Scripture of the three wise men who followed a special star in the heavens to the place of the birth of our Lord in order to give Him honor and praise. (cf Mt 2: 1-12) Their faith was so great that they sacrificed nearly everything to follow that one point in the sky to find their salvation.

I have a simple question: what star do you follow? Is it the star of the pursuit of wealth? Is it the star of the illusion of fame? Is it the star of pleasure? Is it the star of self-absorption, seeing everything as revolving around you? Or is it the star of the teachings of the Master who came to teach, live and die so that we may live? It is the star of service to others? Is it the star of giving tirelessly to those who have nothing? Is it the star of prayer and worship? Or is it the star of teaching your children the ways of life according to the Son of God whom we have just celebrated?

As we stare 2010 in the face, let us look within ourselves to see if we can detect that star in our lives. If we need to follow a different star because the one we have seen leads us to the wrong path, then we must change our gaze and look toward the Savior of us all.

Christmas does not end! It takes place every day of our lives. We must, like the Magi of old, continually seek the star that leads us to the place of the Messiah in our lives. We must put aside petty disagreements and old wounds to forgive and once again embrace those who may have hurt us. We must become peacemakers one person at a time by recognizing that we are all wounded and all in need of the healing of Christ. In these ways and countless others we can ensure that every day of our life is Christmas day, wrapped in the teachings of the humble Rabbi of Nazareth who embraces each one of us with His love. "Love one another as I have loved you," (Jn 15: 12) must become our way of life. By living out this commandment, we can then truly say to one another, "Merry Christmas" each day of our lives throughout the year and relive the warmth of the lights and the fellowship that we have felt over the last few days and weeks leading up to Christmas!

Let Christmas become a way of life. In this way, peace shall be yours! Merry Christmas!!