Every year at this time, browsing for homily ideas, I page through a little book offered by Plough Publishing: Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. The daily reflections are simple, brief and wonderful, and they’re drawn from writers as wide-ranging as Bernard of Clairvaux, John Chrysostom, Dorothy Day, Alfred Delp, Madeleine L’Engle, Romano Guardini, Annie Dillard, C.S. Lewis, Edith Stein, John Donne and T.S. Eliot. Borrowing a line or two from the great and good never hurts at Christmas – or ever.
This year though, for this December column, I’ll share instead two items.
The first item is a recent post from Seminarian Casual, the blog of our men studying for the priesthood at St. Charles Seminary. It’s good because it’s simple and true. And it’s worth pondering as Advent enters its last few days, and we ready ourselves for Christmas:
Get More, Get Merrier?
I just spotted an advertisement for Fios which shows what may be a teenage boy or girl (I cannot tell because the person’s face is covered by a virtual reality headset) staring up at the ceiling, or rather into the virtual world they are in, relaxing in plaid pajamas. And the caption reads: “Get more. Get merrier.”
This is certainly a shot in the gut since my Christmas shopping is finished, and I did not buy anyone a subscription to Fios or a virtual reality headset. Spoiler alert to any of my family members reading this. But according to the advertisement, Christmas will not be merry unless I provide a machine that can block out the real world or go into debt so someone can have the best product for a year before the latest model comes out next November.
We can have this mentality around Christmas. “Get more. Get merrier.” And the stores and Internet are filled with the products that are filling people’s homes, all for the sake of getting happier. All so someone can know you love them because the price tag says so. And if you paid less for someone else, that shows where your heart is — in the credit card compartment of your wallet.
How would they react if they were told that there is one thing that will make them merriest, and it is free?
Would parents flock to the Cathedral if they learned that the priest is giving away the greatest gift of all starting at midnight, and doing it again at certain times listed in the bulletin? Would children leave their gifts under the tree for an hour longer if they could sit in the place of their spiritual rebirth and see a life-size scene of the first Christmas? Maybe the person in the advertisement can take off the virtual reality set and actually look at the world and see the love that is offered on that day.
The radio channels have been reminding us that this is “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” But one of my favorites is hearing George Michael sing, “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart,” and thinking that maybe this year, entering the Church at midnight this Christmas Eve, and going up to the altar to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, “This year…I’ll give it to someone special.”
The second item is a poem-hymn whose words have lived in Christian hearts for more than 500 years:
Lo, in the silent night
A child to God is born
And all is brought again
That ere was lost or lorn.
Could but thy soul, O man,
Become a silent night!
God would be born in thee
And set all things aright.
As the saying goes: Jesus is the reason for the season. May he live in our hearts and guide our lives throughout the coming year. And may God grant all of us and our families a blessed Christmas, filled with happiness.