Christmas is my favorite time of year but it is also when I get more stressed out than normal. I push myself to follow routines and traditions that make me soar with happiness and yet I find it less and less easy to be the old energetic self that manages to get every single thing done without a hitch. Filling my calendar with a “to do” list that keeps me buzzing along hour after hour leaves me anxious and aching in ways that I never experienced when I was younger. It’s difficult for me to admit that I can’t work without rest for twelve hours while attempting to make my home a wonderland worthy of Martha Stewart. It irks me that doing so leaves me exhausted and even crippled and angry at myself. I don’t want to be one of those old ladies who suddenly announces that I’m only going to have a tiny ceramic Christmas tree this year and call it a day. Still, I wonder if I am missing the point of the season when I work myself into a physical and mental frenzy. It is only when I sit quietly beside the lights of the Christmas tree and meditate on the scene of the manger figures that my mother gave me long ago that I feel the essence of the true joy of Christmas.
I’m not becoming a Scrooge or a grouchy old woman. I still love all of the senseless frivolities of Christmas, but as I grow older I feel more and more reverence for the reason of the season. It is breathtaking to realize that two thousand years later so many in this world are still influenced by the life and the teachings of a man whose beginnings were so humble. How is it and why is it that millions and millions have believed in his message of hope and love and faith? Why does letting him into my heart bring me so much peace?
Christianity is built on a mystery that some find impossible to accept while I find it impossible to deny. Jesus has walked beside me through horrific times when I truly felt that I might never find the strength to continue and yet here I am, still inching my way through life one step at a time. I somehow know that it has been Jesus who has provided me with the will to persevere. It is he who has listened to my most private concerns and given me the courage to keep going. It is he who has shown me how to see the beauty of this world and its people. From him I have found great joy in ordinary circumstances. When I still my heart and listen I am able to be a better version of myself than I ever thought possible.
The world can be terrifying these days, but probably no more so than when Jesus walked on the dusty roads of the Holy Land. We humans often make a mess of things, even the messages that he gave us. We have a difficult time accepting differences and seeing beyond the superficial. We judge and compare and do all of those things that have caused hurt and pain. We fret when things don’t go the way we want, growing angry even at God. we sometimes don’t think we even need a higher power to help us. We are after all quite inventive and able to stand on our own feet. We grow proud and unwilling to believe that it is possible that we have gotten things wrong and we forget that Jesus gave us only one guarantee and that is that if we believe what he had to say by trusting him and loving our fellowman our rewards will be immeasurable.
It’s a simple but difficult concept to trust, to keep the faith, to love unconditionally. Mankind is impatient, doubting. We want proof and somehow we require that proof to being devoid of pain or sorrow When it is not, we despair and forget to watch for the signs of God’s presence in the smallest of things like the babbling of a baby or the rising of the sun. All we need do is be still and listen for his voice and we will feel the power of his teachings, we will know that he is never far from us. What better time of year is there to quiet ourselves so that we might feel his presence?
I know that there are many more religions than the one that Jesus inspired. I truly believe that God has been revealed in many different ways to many different cultures. The Jew, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Mormon are all fellow travelers on a journey that is fraught with both difficulties and joys. From what I know of Jesus he would ask us to love one another in spite of our differences. He would want us to embrace even those who scoff at the very idea of faith in a God. I find that inspiring and the essence of what this season should be.
I try to listen the the quiet each day and ask Jesus to enter my heart. His voice grows ever louder whenever I do. I feel great joy and hear his command to love. He reminds me constantly not to judge or hate or worry about my fate. I feel only trust that all will be well, that Christmas will continue to celebrate the love that was born on that day of long ago. We will be alright in spite of ourselves because he has shown us how to live.