…Or an ox. Both great choices.
I was struck at Mass this Christmas morning by how empty the pews were. Now I realize a lot of people go on Christmas Eve these days but still, it was really empty. I remember as a kid how crowded every Mass was on Christmas. If you didn’t get there very early it was standing room only. What the heck has happened?!
It seems that everyone “celebrates” Christmas these days…the devout and the agnostic alike. Christmas Eve is a busy day…wrapping gifts, cooking, baking, getting hair done and manicures and then the parties, huge meals, wine, rich desserts and opening all the presents. Makes me wonder what kind of meals those wealthy enough to stay in the inns had that Christmas eve so long ago. Imagine the fun of travel in those days…it wasn’t very common so it had to be a big treat and adventure, especially for the kids. Were there pubs back then? Imagine the fun of eating meals out with others staying at the inn. I bet it might have been similar to our Christmas eves these days. Back then no one knew Jesus lay in a manger nearby so they weren’t giving it much thought. Today, we do know but so many leave him out of the celebration. How many of us even think to invite him to the party anymore?
Now the half empty church had it’s advantages for me. As I knelt up front looking at the beautiful altar and the nativity scene with the wise men a ways off on their journey, I thought of how blessed the oxen and asses were to be graced with Jesus’ presence that cold night. They weren’t hustling all day shopping and cooking and baking and decorating. Their hearts weren’t cluttered with preconceived notions of how the night was supposed to go or the presents they hoped to receive. They were simply “being” who God created them to be. Without protest they made room for this tiny infant and this Holy Family and shared their warmth to keep him warm.
I thought of how pressured even those of us who do believe are to “do” Christmas according to the way the world dictates…with all the materialism and hype. How those who make Mass a priority on Christmas eve or Christmas morning, and every Sunday and even weekdays, are seen as the “asses” these days. As I gazed at the nativity scene and pictured that night I was so struck by the simplicity of those creatures of God. How in their humility and receptivity their memory lives even to this day. How their example is a good one for me, and all of us, to be more simple. To let go of preconceived notions and desires of what I think will make me happy and to make more room for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. How even though Christmas is usually exhausting for me, that the joy of His presence in the tabernacle and in my heart is a gift that’s ever present. How sad for those who miss it. After the “beats” have broken, the chia pets are shelved for regifting and the X-boxes fail to thrill, what is there?
So as you make your resolutions for 2014, think Simplicity. Stop “doing” so much and start “being” more. Remember that God will provide for your needs. Just as you enjoy giving good gifts to your children, imagine how much more God loves to give good things to those who trust in Him?
Allison is also the Founder and President of www.CatholicTherapists.com, a nationwide network of dedicated Catholic therapists.
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