When I was a child, the month of December seemed to stretch into eternity. Each day I would open a little window on my Advent calendar and count how many more I would have to wait through until Santa Claus came.
Even Christmas Day itself was unbearable. My mother insisted on feeding us breakfast, and my family all went to Christmas Mass before getting to run down into the basement where our presents would be spread around our Christmas tree. From youngest to oldest, eleven of us lined up waiting for the signal from Mom that we could open the door and go find our treasure.
Nowadays, I have Christmas anxiety in reverse. Will there be enough time to decorate the house, buy and wrap all the presents, send out the Christmas cards? As the days of December go by in a fast clip, that anxiety mounts.
Yet if I allow myself to stop and reflect, I am able to ponder what this waiting is really all about. In the cold, dark mornings and wintry nights, when all the world seems asleep, I think about a teenage girl, nine months pregnant, making a difficult and dangerous journey to her husband’s ancestral home. I think of the rough, unsterile conditions in which she gives birth to a miraculous child, a son that will save the world.
I also think about present day miracles that always seem to occur around Christmas time. People willingly depositing their cash into little red Salvation Army buckets. Strangers wishing each other good cheer. Carolers visiting nursing homes. Good souls spending Christmas Day feeding the homeless. Estranged family members reconnecting for the sake of peace on Earth.
Like many families this Christmas, mine has experienced its share of joys and sorrows this year – engagements, weddings, births, deaths, illness, financial distress. Like many others, we are waiting – hoping and praying for peace, healing, and joy.
Whatever your beliefs or faith tradition, I pray that you find peace and lasting happiness during this season of light.