Looking Up or How To Miss Christmas
“Are you done your shopping yet?” Do you get asked this a lot every Christmas season? I do, even by random strangers. It is weird. Yet, it seems almost everyone is wrapped up (no pun intended), in the busyness of the season. It may seem cliche, but I have been asking myself the question, “how am I going to grow closer to Jesus this Advent.” Of course there is the standard and very important things like going to Mass, prayer, and Confession, but really, what is going to differentiate this Advent from all other Advents? I am personally tired of going through these Liturgical Seasons that God gives us through His Church and come out seemingly the same. Do you ever feel the same way?
I think we have all become accustomed to is the story of Christmas. We see manger scenes everywhere, yet, I think we’ve lost touch with the sheer magnitude that this cutesy little creche represents. Though there is much to say about the beauty of the Incarnation of Christ in the Womb of Mary, I want to take a moment and focus on the difference between a few key players in the story of Christmas and why they matter today.
“No room in the inn.” This saying was coined by the good ol’ innkeeper in Bethlehem. St. Joseph and Mary had just travelled approximately 80 miles (130 km approx.) by foot and most likely a donkey to carry Mary. The average person walks at a pace of 5.0 kilometres per hour (km/h), or about 3.1 miles per hour (mph). With this in mind, it most likely would have been at least a four day’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The divine bun in the oven was just about ready and the innkeeper, stone-faced, told the holy family to go sleep with the cows. He missed his chance. Life got in the way of him being able to see the very thing in front of him that could change his life forever. He was too worried about money, his business, and his reputation to allow God into all of those things. The very Person who gave those things to the innkeeper was rejected, and He wasn’t even born yet. One of the greatest cosmic events in recent history was literally happening over-top of that inn and he was too busy looking at his own personal interests to pay attention.
While everybody else was worrying about their own interests there were some people looking: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. The three kings or Magi who travelled from afar to find Jesus. These three men recognized the star rising in the east and came prepared, knowing that the star would lead to the King. So, they travelled what would have most likely been a four-month journey to find Jesus. They left everything just to pay him homage. They had their priorities straight because they looked up from their temporal affairs to seek the King of Kings. Tradition holds that these three magi later converted to Christianity and were martyred and their relics are now housed in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. – Isaiah 55:6-7
The season of Advent is given to us as a reminder of two things: the coming of Jesus at His nativity and the second coming of Jesus at the end of time. Advent is meant to remind us that Jesus came in mercy in the manger, but is also coming with wrath and justice at the end. There will come a time when Jesus will bring fire to the earth and our prayers for mercy will go unheard. Scary business, indeed, but true. The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay won’t be the cutesy plastic figurine that we’ve made Him out to be. He is King with justice and mercy in His hand and right now, we are in a time of great mercy. Advent is a summons for us to stop and look up, and seek the Lord anew. We are called by Christ this Advent to seek Him in new and fresh ways.
Look up from your cellphone and speak to that family member you have been struggling with talking to.
Look up from the things you have to do and spend quality time with the people you love and get to know their heart better.
Look up and see the needs of others, the poor and less fortunate. Learn to give the gift of being present to someone you do not know. Don’t just give money, give your heart.
Look up and outside of those things you are comfortable with. Listen to that band you’ve never heard of, listen to a talk about something you’re not familiar with. Take a risk and see how the Lord guides you and speaks to you.
Look up from your religious ‘duties’ and spend quality time with Jesus and get to know His heart. Don’t just do the formatted prayers you’ve committed to do. Try to enter more deeply into personal prayer with the Lord. Go into Mass or into Confession with the firm intent to be changed and to change afterwards.
Yet, this call can go unheard, just like it was for the innkeeper. We can get so wrapped up in the stuff we have to do and get done, to look seek Him in the midst of it. The three magi are called wise for a reason. Who will you be this Christmas: a wise person or just a busy innkeeper who let another Christmas go by?
The Virgin, weighed
with the Word of God,
comes down the road:
If only you’ll shelter her.
-St. John of the Cross