Christmas is upon us and the joy of this season is real. This reality of joy, however, looks different for each one of us.
I love Christmas. All the little gifts–baking cookies, watching Christmas classics, decorating the tree, catching up with friends–are so special to me. Still, as much as I delight in Christmas, I am in no way on this persistent emotional high once the clock strikes midnight to mark the arrival of December 25. I am quite thankful for the Church’s celebration of Christmas that continues past this one day. Even with this, though, I know that I speak for many of us when I acknowledge this truth.
In a lot of ways, we’re still waiting.
Some of us are waiting for the answer to that deep, hidden prayer we’ve been praying for months, maybe years.
Some of us are waiting to find out the results of a biopsy recently done.
Some of us are waiting for our child to receive a life-dependent transplant.
Some of us are waiting for the end we know is coming of the loved one who is so dear to us.
Some of us are waiting to know, really know, if this relationship is the right relationship for us.
Some of us are waiting to find out if maybe this time we were able to conceive.
Some of us are waiting to find out if we got that interview for medical school.
Some of us are waiting to hear back about our dream job interview.
All of us, even in Christmas, are still waiting in one way or another.
Christmas is the season that invites us to live the joy that is borne of expectant hope. Christmas echoes for us the message of Scripture’s reflection on the seasons of life.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
These changing times, these life seasons, are each innately good. Each season in life has the potential for us to receive love and to respond in love. More importantly, each season has the potential to remind us of our deepest desires and to propel us forward in our desire for our eternal home, the ultimate coming for which we each long.
Sometimes life calls us to be present within a paradox of experiences and emotions. Even in this Christmas Season, the Church celebrates Christ’s birth and then the very next day reflects on the martyrdom of St. Stephen. She celebrates the feast of St. John, the apostle “whom Jesus loved,” and then the following day she celebrates the Slaughtering of the Innocents, the first martyrs. Even in the midst of joy, the Church as a mother is inviting us to live the reality that we still long for something more than just right now; we long for forever.
We still long for the ultimate and final coming of Christ. We long for our eternal homeland where there will be no more death or pain or tears but where instead He will “make all things new” (Revelations 21).
Instead of trying to pick apart or understand the potentially paradoxical season you are currently living, I encourage you simply to acknowledge those spaces and places in your life that seem to remain in a season of waiting. See them for what they are, for they are NOT voids of emptiness.
These places of continued waiting are where the Lord desires to make known His presence to you.
Enlarge the place of your tents. Open up your hearts!
When we pray the Our Father, we are imploring Christ to return again in fullness and so hasten the coming of His kingdom of light and life in abundance.
The invitation this Christmas is to live in the tension of the already but not yet. We have already received Christ in His birth as a baby on this earth. We await His second coming when we will be caught up entirely into His presence of divine love.
We have already been redeemed, but we do not yet get to experience that redemption in its fullness.
This odd tension, this uncomfortable-at-times season of joy, is one that invites us deeper still. Here, we are invited to honestly live those spaces in which we are still waiting while simultaneously choosing to live fully the joy of Christ’s birth.
Our Lady shows us just what this season looks like. The shepherds approached, telling her all that they had seen and heard about her son. Simeon told her that her future would be full of suffering, for “a sword will pierce your own soul also so that the thoughts out of many hearts will be revealed” (Luke 2:35). This season is one in which she was forced to flee to a foreign country.
The response of Our Lady is always the same.
She does not run forward in hopes of denying the difficulty of her reality.
She does not fall back and give into the temptation to despair at such a prophecy.
She simply remains who she is exactly where she is.
She ponders and treasures all of these things in her heart, in the depths.
These little seeds are the seeds that she will take to the Father in prayer every day and say, “What of this, Lord?” It isn’t that she doubts; it’s that she chooses to relate, to communicate in love, with her God each day.
Let us not let go of the lessons gleaned for us during the season of Advent, during the season of true and deep waiting. In a sense, our entire lives this side of Heaven are truly an Advent, a waiting for the coming of Christ and His Kingdom. This time, too, has a purpose.
Each day is an invitation for us to cultivate a space within our own hearts, a space where we can invite the Lord to come and rest amidst the business.
I must choose for myself whether or not I will create and respect boundaries for myself, especially with my time. I must choose whether or not I will set aside a portion of that time for the Lord and invite Him to live this juxtaposed, paradoxical reality of life with me. I can be on the go “in the name of His Kindgom,” but if I never stop to sit with him, then I am going to be like all the other passers by in Bethlehem, unable to see the glory right in front of me due to my choosing not to be present.
We are celebrating.
We are waiting.
We are both celebrating and waiting.
Receive the grace to be had in looking at Baby Jesus as the One in whom our hearts can rest, as the One in whom we place our trust.
This time of living, whether a time where you feel like you are in abundance or a time where you feel like you are waiting, I invite you to live it. Live it so fully that you offer it back to the Lord in thanksgiving and beg Him to make His presence known to you.
Invite Our Lady to teach you how to ponder, how to hold these mysteries of life that are both profound and simple all at once. His movement in our lives is not dependent on our understanding His plan. It is only dependent on our openness.
Even if you don’t feel you are experiencing the fullness of joy in this season, be assured that this is the season of the both/and. This is the season of rejoicing and continued expectation.
This is the season of glory and promise…that beckons us to continue moving. Be about what is in front of you. He will lead you to your next step. Remember always that the waiting is not a void of emptiness; the waiting is a foundation for fullness.
He is here.
He is with us.
Come, let us adore Him in the reality of abundant joy and profound waiting.