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I feel like I have to write a Christmas column.
It will be Christmas in three days, after all …
The other day I was sitting in chapel and thinking about how busy life has been lately in the convent. We held our annual Daughters of St. Paul Choir Christmas concert recently, which is an amazing event, and such a beautiful evangelizing opportunity, but it is also a lot of work for the community.
The nuns were baking cookies and preparing for weeks ahead of time. I helped Sr. Marlyn Evangelina, our kitchen guru, bake the thumbprint cookies. They were delicious, despite my assistance. While helping, I managed to get hit in the head with a heavy, greasy fryer while I was trying to move the cookie pans. My head, and my poor veil, is still recovering. (And since I started reading “The Rite” before I go to bed, it made me wonder if we should have the kitchen exorcised. But then I realized that unless cooking pans start levitating, it’s probably just that I’m a klutz.)
Christmas busyness is normal. You all understand. In fact, you more than understand. Some of you have screaming kids, full-time jobs, needy friends and family and much more to deal with than I do. You understand that life is busy, especially around this time of year.
So how can we make room in our hearts for Baby Jesus as Christmas looms?
I could tell you to avoid some of the activities you have planned, to stop with your Christmas card list, to give up on making fancy cookies, buying gifts and to skip a few parties. And maybe you will do this. But the truth is most of us will be busy this week. Busy with family, children, friends and faith.
But there are others who will be alone. Without family, without children and with few friends. These people’s houses and apartments will be empty on Christmas. Others do not even have a place to call home. Some are elderly, some are single and lonely, and others have never quite fit in anywhere. Time stretches before them like an eternity, a torturous constant reminder that they are alone, with no one to help them fill the hours of their day with joy.
Some people feel alone. They may be surrounded by love, but they are facing a difficulty, like cancer or a dying spouse, that forces them to confront one of the deepest sufferings in life, the knowledge that in the end we all face death. And even if we do this with others by our side, we still must, to some extent, face the darkest difficulties in existential aloneness.
Other Christians are celebrating Christmas in war-torn countries. They will try to do something to celebrate, but there will be no escape from the chilling reality that they could be dead tomorrow. As Archbishop Nassar of Damascus, Syria, wrote in his Christmas letter last year:
“Our neighbors do not want us. … Our faithful spend their Christmas celebration in the freezing cold of their ‘household nativity’ relying on the warmth of their faith under the tender gaze of the Holy Family.”
This is the broken nature of Christmas. We celebrate a Savior who entered a wounded world. And every year we celebrate his birth, we see evidence that our world is still so broken, still so in need of the saving power of Jesus.
Our Savior did not come as a king, although he could have saved us in any way he pleased. Rather, he came as a tiny, vulnerable child. He entered our broken, violent, hate-filled world as a tiny, trusting, child, to be with us.
Emmanuel, God with us.
So in the swirl of activities and joy of this next week, I will simply try to carry in my heart all the people who are celebrating Christmas under less happy circumstances.
Like Jesus, I live with my sisters in poverty, chastity and obedience, making me vulnerable, tiny and weak in a world that prefers sex, money and power. May I embrace my Bethlehem life freely and joyfully so that others may find hope.
Like Jesus, may we be with our brothers and sisters in their suffering.
Like Jesus, may we allow our hearts to be moved by the pathetic, heart-wrenching circumstances of others.
Like Jesus, may we strip ourselves of all that is not of the Father, and focus only on living to give glory to God.
Like Jesus, may we accept the small sufferings in our lives, and offer them for others who endure much worse.
Like Jesus, may we be a healing presence to others in our community and world.
Like Jesus, may we give time, even in the busyness, to pray to the Father, because that is always more important than any task we have to do.
Because in striving to be like Jesus, to be present to the less fortunate, we are with Jesus.
Emmanuel: God is with us.
Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP,is the author ofThe Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. She recentlypronounced her first vowswith the Daughters of Saint Paul. She blogs atPursued by Truth.