Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rekindle the Spirit of Christmas

“Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you. No word from God will ever fail. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:28, 37.

Pain pillaged my first Christmases with my sons without their father. Haunted by the spirit of Christmases past, I mourned the loss of our family’s meaningful rituals making Christmas wondrous. I grieved that my two young sons would not experience the same emotional sensations my mom and dad lavished on me—stability, joy, faith and warm, love-filled holidays.

Celebrating the birth of baby Jesus provided the meaning of the season. However, in years past, emotional pleasure—excitement, anticipation and delight—energized my spirit of Christmas. Now something unfamiliar crowded out my holiday zeal—excruciating heartache. Financial turmoil extinguished any remaining fragments of seasonal cheer. I felt as helpless as that babe in a manger in a cold cave thrust into an inhospitable world.

What most influences your spirit of Christmas? Alcohol? Spending time with those you love? Enduring uneasy truces to avoid family issues and quarrels? Gift giving? The birth of Christ?

The First Christmas
On “the” first Christmas, Mary and Joseph experienced many circumstances single parents face. They confronted shame and a difficult moral situation—a pregnant bride-to-be. Wagging tongues surely gossiped about their state of affairs. Their social prestige factor? Near zero. The innkeeper rejected Mary and Joseph, forcing them to find shelter wherever they could. A child born into poverty.

What lone parent has not experienced Mary’s feelings? Astonished, perplexed, afraid, anxious, and incredulous.

The God of Disguise and Surprise
The God of disguise and surprise came to reside right where solo parents live. As the emptiness of the first of many lonely Christmases engulfed me in depression, words my mom read to me as a child every Christmas morning encouraged me, “Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you. No word from God will ever fail. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

The real God, the warm God engaged my cold heart right where I was—needy, helpless, weak, angry and unforgiving. Emmanuel—God with us—came unScroogelike to my young sons and me, extending tenderness for the past, courage for the present and hope for the future.

A Christmas Prayer
Like my Christmas wish list, I often wasted my prayers asking for inconsequential desires. When lost, abandoned and impoverished in spirit, I embraced the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Wrapped in God’s Amazing Gifts
Emmanuel—God with us—wraps us in his amazing gifts of new life, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, love and concern for others. Jesus, the first Christmas gift, summed up the true spirit of Christmas, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Live this season by the spirit of love and keep the spirit of Christmas glowing all year long.

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