December 11, 2020
First Reading Isaiah 48:17-19
Gospel Matthew 11:16-19
Artwork by Ryan E. | Class of 2021
The excitement of a child for Christmas is often palpable and contagious. Even as we grow older, there is still a little spark of joyful anticipation. However, I recall the moment where the childhood excitement was not enough. The anticipation for gifts was not enough to stir the spirit. As Christmas approached, I turned to the Nativity instead. However, as I stared at the angel, baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the sheep and cows, to my horror, it, too, felt hollow. With my family Christmas tree and presents to my back and the Nativity in front of me, there was still a sense of meaninglessness.
How could this have happened? Where was the hope and anticipation? Where was the joy?
As I looked at the figurine of baby Jesus, I asked these questions. Then I stumbled upon the ultimate question: where is Jesus? In the manger looking so innocent, perfect, pristine, and fake?
It was never the gifts that brought joy, nor the arrival of December 25, the figurines in the Nativity set, or even the memory of that creation-changing moment when Jesus was born.
All of these were expectations of joy, but were not the source of the true, life-giving joy in themselves.
I remember that Christmas as being the first time I truly let go of expectations of happiness around Christmas and instead looked for the Living Christ. Christ has left the manger in the same way he left the cross, to live with the Father eternally in our midst.
For me that year, it was seeing how happy people were to catch up and chat; hearing my grandparents recall the stories of past Christmases before they had children; seeing my mother content that the house was full and people who were beyond fed and people giving without expectation of receiving, caring without the need to be cared for – love for love’s sake.
All of these things had the spirit of love lifting our ordinary humanity up to the divine.
This Christmas is going to be different for certain, but it doesn’t have to be a bad kind of different. We will probably have less people in our homes but maybe that is an opportunity to invite the Living Christ into our intimacies, to give new life to our Christmas.
It is a perfect time to encounter Christ in new and unexpected ways. Let Christmas 2020 be an exemplar of the year, turning expectation on its head, finding life in new ways, and being open to a joyful hope like we have never seen. This will be a Christmas to remember- if we are open to it.
By Jonny Prociv