Advent and Christmas come around each year by design, which is both a blessing and a challenge. If we’re not mindful, these seasons can easily become something like cultural background noise. If that happens, then we’ve lost a great gift because we cannot experience the power of Christmas through mere osmosis. The same is true in friendship or marriage or parenthood. When an old friend, a spouse, a child grows familiar to us we can gradually lose our ability to be delighted, challenged and transformed by them.
It is perhaps unrealistic to think that we could maintain the rush and infatuation of the childhood Christmas or our first date or initial encounter with a newfound friend, but we must take time and space to reflect on the great blessings which these bonds entail. Gratitude fills tired souls with youthful wonder.
When we take time to ponder the gift of friendship it becomes possible then to delight anew in our loved ones. In the wisdom of the church, she knows this is also true of our friendship with Christ.
Advent and Christmas don’t roll around, year-after-year, by default. They are very deliberate seasons — established and developed over time by the church — to assist us in renewing and reawakening our friendship with Christ.
Over the next few weeks let us pause in gratitude and reflection, before hanging the wreaths, lighting the Advent candles and singing “O’Come, O’Come Emanuel.” All these are aids to help us imagine a world that longed and groaned for the coming of the Messiah.
A little more than 2,000 years ago there were inklings that great changes were afoot: an angelic visit to a young virgin, an immaculate conception, strange visions, a leaping unborn John the Baptist and a surprising astronomical discovery by ancient star watchers. But Israel could not and did not imagined what new horizon the world was broaching.
Perhaps more extraordinary than the incomprehensibly large physical universe shooting out of nothing in a flash was that the source of everything would enter into and become what he had made. And why? For love eternal. To be with us.
Let us keep these mysteries deliberately in mind in hopes that Christmas can seep into our soul — not by osmosis but by gratitude, born of love.
The writer is editor of the Catholic Anchor, the official newspaper and news website for the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.