To be stressed, frustrated, uptight, anxious, angry, upset, eager, greedy, guilty, et cetera, et cetera.
Everywhere I look, these are the emotions I see upon the faces of people. They are the emotions and feelings I come up against, that I, too, struggle against. I wonder if you donít experience some of the above, too?
We are so busy - all of us! Busy doing what? Trying to prepare for Christmas, but not the Christmas that is meant for us to celebrate, nor what itís all about. Weíre so intent on getting the house cleaned, the decorations up, the baking done, those darn Christmas cards mailed, buying just the right tree, hoping our bank account doesnít bounce a check, or rather, that when the credit card bill comes in January we wonít have a heart attack, or worse, have to file bankruptcy.
You see, Jesus doesnít want any of us to go bankrupt spiritually, but thatís precisely what weíre doing to ourselves, and consequently, to our families and loved ones by our frantic efforts to prepare for the holidays in a materialistic, commercial way.
If weíre so stressed out from so many things coming at us, how can we possibly be praying from our hearts? How can we, if weíre uptight and angry and frustrated, possibly keep the door of our heart open to receive Christ and His Peace?
Are you going to go to Mass Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, and sigh because, at last, the preparations are done and the guests are coming, the meal will be served, the gifts given, and then everyone can sit back and collapse from sheer fatigue, never realizing that your soul has already collapsed from the lack of light and life and grace that comes from giving your all to God? Of what value is it for us, who love God, who profess to love His Only-Begotten Son Jesus Christ to attend Holy Mass in such a fashion, just wishing it would hurry up and be over because, by gosh, weíve still got so much to do.
I feel that way - but then I get a grip on myself. More precisely, my guardian angel Joseph knocks me over the head and tells me to get a grip on myself. I realize how foolish Iím being, the unwise one with her lamp going out and no time left to replenish the oil supply. The joy comes from loving God above all else, above all the hype and hoopla and the guilt trips we go through when the kids want and want and want and we donít have the means to give. The guilt of not inviting this or that relative in preference for others who are more compatible. The exhaustion of finally arriving at that moment when the gifts are given, the home is somewhat back to normal, and weíve got a few days before we have to go and take all the decorations down so life returns to some normalcy.
What to do?
God is first. Always. Without Him, nothing has meaning, nothing bears fruit, nothing lifts us up or keeps us moving forward. We collapse, in one way or the other, and then find ourselves in the bottomless pit of despair, and wonder how we got there, blaming God for putting us in this black hole, when, in truth, weíve done it to ourselves.
As Christmas draws very, very close, put aside the things that arenít done yet. Are they really absolutely vital? If not, then forget them, and concentrate on the prayer, especially family prayer. Go to Holy Mass, go to Confession, prepare for Christmas in a spiritual way first and foremost, and then all the rest will fit into your daily life in a peaceful, pleasant way.
Why do we allow the pressure of society to dictate to us? Why??? So Christmas cards arenít sent. What? Godís going to condemn you to the abyss because of it? So the presents under the tree are smaller and less expensive than the ones at someone elseís house. So? Isnít it better to have Love under the tree than to be in such debt you have to work doubly hard the whole year just to pay it off? So, the kids tease your kids at school because they donít have the newest video games to play, or the neatest, coolest toys. So? Pressure of this type isnít from God, itís from man being manipulated by satan, and itís time we all got our priorities straight.
We are coming up on the final week of advent. Have you placed an advent wreath in your home, lighted the candles, gathered your family around it, and said prayers to awaken your hearts to the coming of the Infant Jesus?
This is whatís importantÖthat on Christmas Day the Infant Jesus is born anew in our hearts, never to leave, always the King of our heart, and the source of all good and grace and love and light and mercy that we are going to need to keep on the straight and narrow path to eternal salvation.
Do what you can, do it with love. Invite God to help you to do the many things that youíre trying to do. When you canít do any more, then give it to Him, ask His help, and let it go. Go in prayer, tell Him all about your struggles. Heís listening. He understands.
Talk about stress? Wouldnít you think that St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother might have been stressed out when they journeyed to Bethlehem, found no room at the inn, knew the Child was to be born, and all that was available was a cold stable (cave), dark and dank and unlivable? But they werenít stressed. They were too busy loving God and seeking His will. They trusted. They found out that even the poorest, meanest living conditions can be transformed into splendor in a single instant through the power of God. Thatís what happened in that stable in Bethlehem. Splendor came and dwelled among men, only most were too busy going about their busy lives to eve notice. Only a few shepherds noticed. Later, three wise men came and they noticed. No one else. Splendor reigned. Splendor still reigns. Itís not in the tree, the lights, nor even in the tinsel or fancy-wrapped presents. Itís in your heart. Go and see if itís there. If it is pray that you never lose it. If it isnít, then go and ask for it in prayer. It will come - in a silent night of prayer - Splendor, Jesus Christ, Lord, God and Savior.
Heís coming! Rejoice and be glad and make Him the true meaning of Christmas, lest you find yourself bankrupt spiritually as well as financially.