Whatever is going on in your life, this Christmas can be the best one ever.
The outdoor lights are up. The stockings and garlands are hung. The nativity sets are on display, and the tree is full of ornaments. Warm memories from the past mix with new adventures. Everything glows with Christmas.
But there's still plenty to do. Baking, shopping, plans for holiday outings, and all the things I haven't been able to check off the list -- just yet. As long as I'm busy, it's easy to wait. But when everything is done, there's usually a piece of quiet left for a breath of reflection.
Each Christmas unfolds in a one-of-a-kind way. And that, I think, is how it's meant to be. We've had wonderfully loud and joyous years with laughter and children and midnight gift-wrapping, as well as years dimmed by the worry and stress that comes with an unexpected illness or job loss. Some Dec. 25ths are quieter than others: children grow up and leave home and loved ones pass. Every year can be meaningful, but not necessarily merry.
For me, the secret of Christmas lies in this: God is with us always. Jesus Christ was born to make human life his own -- not just the seasons that are festive and fat, but those that are wanting and sad. He is with us in boisterous celebration and in moments of silent longing. He's beside us when things go better than we had hoped and when they are worse than we had feared. The infant of Bethlehem comes to show us that the God of heaven is also the God of earth, and that wherever we are, he is hiding close to us.
All the things we do for Christmas pale in comparison to all the things that Christmas does for us. The lights, and gifts, and decorated tree, the music, and sweets, and gatherings are meant to focus our attention on what we otherwise might well overlook: the Son of God, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
With him there is no need to act as if all is as it should be; he knows what it is to be a child of poverty born into a world of darkness. Nor do we need to harden our hearts against the cold; for his love brings hope. Regrets? We all have them -- fears, and hurts, and disappointments, too. The things we've done and failed to do may cast long shadows, but he is light.
Christmas is proof that the God who comes, comes to stay. Jesus never leaves us. It's true that we may wander far from him, or slowly drift away. But the cries from the stable call us back -- back to the God who leaps from heaven just to be with us, back to the God who gives his life so that we might be with him eternally.
Whatever is going on in your life, this Christmas can be the best one ever. You may not get what you asked for, or be able to give what you'd like to. You may not have a tree this year, or the energy to gather with family and friends. But you can leave all that outside the stable, and go inside.
This Christmas, choose to listen to the sound of angelic voices in the air. Leave the flocks on the hillside and seek out the savior for yourself. It doesn't matter where you've been. Be still. Take the holy infant in your arms and hold him close, close enough to feel his warm breath against your cheek. Then, don't let go.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.