The anticipation is finally over. That box below the tree that you shook for weeks has been revealed. Your living room has been destroyed with torn wrapping paper and the men in your life, young and old, have all disappeared to play with their new toys. The Christmas menu you so carefully prepared was devoured in 10 minutes, resulting in a pile of dishes and a bunch of over-stuffed stomachs. Sometimes, the end of the holiday can provide its own gift: a moment to rest.
For Brothers and Sisters of Love it has also been a chance to take a breath after coordinating Christmas presents for many of our needy families. Meeting requests and tracking shirt sizes, ages, and names of children throughout Chicago neared the point of frenzy as Christmas approached. We also were able to pay heating and electric bills so that families remained warm for the holidays, but not without persistence and more than a few phone calls.
By the time I sat in the pew on Christmas Eve, I was exhausted. All my preparations for Christmas giving had left my spirit quite unprepared to celebrate with God. For those who understand my exhaustion, I have some news that may shock you: Your work is not over. In fact, Christmas has just begun. The good news? This type of work can be much more life-giving than we make Christmas out to be.
We spend Advent waiting in hope for the coming of Christ into our world. Our hopes came true: Christ came to us on Christmas, and yet we all stop the celebrations and go back to our ordinary lives. Why is this? Did you miss the gift hiding among the others? God gave to us the gift of incarnation through Christ and we are leaving the gift in the box, despite the transformation it is meant to have for our lives.
I can only imagine the angels in heaven shouting down to shake some of us out of our holiday haze: Rejoice! Emmanuel! God with us! We sing the songs but do not celebrate the full extent of their meaning. The incarnation is God’s ultimate gift to us of love. How we allow the Body of Christ to shine in this world is how we bring the gift of love to others. The gift of the incarnation is a community gift. It takes every one of us to use the gift well. God’s presence in this world is as big or small as we allow it to be.
We pleaded in hope for God to be with us, and here is God, wrapped in swaddling clothes and ready to journey with us through every aspect of the human condition, our joys and our sorrows. God remains in each of us through the Spirit, so that we may reveal God to one another in love on this Earth. Therefore, every time you love your neighbor, you celebrate Christmas. Every time you see hardship and you choose hope, you celebrate Christmas. Every time you smile in joy at the beauty of life, you continue to celebrate Christmas. Christmas never ends unless you stop loving.
What can you do to keep Christmas alive? Now the holiday angel trees are over, will you still maintain a generous heart when the poor need help come January and February? Will you still call family members and support them, without having a holiday obligation to do so? Will you keep the joyful smile on your face as you head back to work, knowing that we have a God so loving that God remains with us, surrounding us in love if we but choose to accept it? Will you be Christ present on earth for others?
May we all summon the energy to keep Christmas alive, so that no day is without hope, and no one is without love.
–Megan Sherrier, BSL
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