In my faith tradition, Roman Catholicism, the weeks leading up to Christmas is called the season of Advent. It is a time we are to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ Child. The Church tries really hard to get us to focus on the true meaning of Christmas but I have a feeling that most of us aren't really getting it.
We are like most other people. We are focused on getting all of our shopping done, decorating our houses and baking cookies for our holiday get-togethers. And we're trying to fit all of this in our already too busy schedules of work, ball games, TV programs, etc. We begin to feel stressed over the fact that we have way too much to do and way too little time. We become cranky and short-tempered - and never quite settle ourselves down long enough to meditate on celebrating the birth of the Christ Child and what it means for us today. Christmas Day comes, we go to Church, open gifts, eat a big meal and secretly, we're glad it's over so we can get some rest.
I think most of us are operating under the assumption that we are celebrating a birth that happened 2000 years ago. What most of us don't realize is that we should use the weeks leading up to Christmas anticipating a birth that is still to come. For though Jesus was physically born into our world 2000 years ago, He is still waiting to be born in the 'hearts' of many of us. That's what Advent and the Christmas Season is really all about - preparing our 'hearts' to receive the Christ Child - to allow Him to be born in our own lives.
How ironic it is. As Christians we are offended when other faith traditions want to take Christ out of Christmas. We are offended when someone says 'Happy Holidays' rather than 'Merry Christmas'. But Christmas is more than a greeting.
I wonder how the world might become different, if, as Christians, we celebrated the birth of Christ, not by exchanging expensive gifts with our family and friends, but instead focusing our attention on the needs of the world around us. What if we showed God's love by giving of ourselves - all year long - to the hungry and the poor. What if we denied ourselves some luxuries - ate out less, drove less expensive cars, lived in smaller homes, had fewer electronic toys, a simpler cell phone plan, etc. and instead shared some of our blessings with those in need. You see, most of us are not opposed to sharing with those less fortunate -as long as we don't have to give up any of our own comforts. We will gladly share a little of our 'extras' but don't ask us to give till it hurts.
All these years I've been celebrating Christmas and I still haven't gotten it right. Not even close. It's hard to change traditions but I think I need to distance myself a little bit each year from the particular ways I've been taught to celebrate this season, for I truly want Christ to be born anew in my heart.
This is a time of WAITING and PREPARING for what's REALLY IMPORTANT. Come, Lord Jesus. Come, fill my heart with your love. Fill it until it overflows into the world around me - and then fill it some more. Amen.