Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Almost Christmas

The older I get the more quickly Christmas seems to come up on me. Or maybe it has nothing to do with age, but with the nature of the things I have to do at this stage of my life, the way certain tasks pile up just before Christmas - including things that have nothing per se to do with Christmas but demand my attention before year's end. Then, on top of that,  these past two weeks I've been fighting one of my annual colds, which leaves me feeling weaker, less enthusiastic, and almost abandoned. Of course, ordinary people - or at any rate people in ordinary families - have always found themselves burdened in multiple ways just before Christmas. By comparison, I who have hardly any presents to purchase should hardly complain!

But "Keeping Christmas" - to use Dickens' lovely alliteration - is about more than just being ready, having everything done in time: every card written, every gift bought and wrapped, every public place decorated, etc. All of that stuff - wonderful as so much of it is in so many special ways - is just the external accompaniment of our great annual winter holiday, only superficially preparing us for the great feast.

What is so problematic about all this, of course, is that it is my job to highlight the essential meaning of Christmas - not just for myself but for everyone else. And how am I supposed to do that well - or even adequately - when my own Advent is as unfocused and unreflective as anyone else's? 

I had resolved this Advent to re-read Pope Benedict XVI's little book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (2012), the best, reasonably accessible commentary of which I am aware on the infancy gospels. My hope was that it would add some insight to my preaching on those gospel stories - and maybe more generally some much needed inspiration as well! 

Well, of course, my cold got in the way, and even my modest effort at Advent reading has been upended somewhat, although I am in the process of trying to catch up now

In the second Preface for Advent, we pray It is by his gift that already we rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity, so that he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise. The goal of being watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise seems somewhat even more elusive than usual this year. Fortunately, the gift is given anyway, by the grace of which I may yet hope - we may all hope - to rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity!

Meanwhile, to whoever reads this post, my best wishes for an abundance of blessings this Christmas and for all of 2016!

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