The usual seasonal anxieties are wafting to the surface as December progresses, and we need to assess them in light of our faith. There are the school events, the parish activities, the job-related stresses (for those with work!) and the nearly insurmountable family expectations. This year adds “icing to the cake” with concerns about germs and recession, so that the price tag attached to each responsibility flashes neon in the dusky madness.
Is this what Our Lord wants for his birthday? Certainly not, but he’s not driving it. Our culture—steeped in materialism has led us down a dark alley with no seeming escape. But escape we must.
A great event looms concerning our salvation—both the stunning arrival of God amidst his creatures all those centuries ago and his promise to return. A single event straddles both and we’re sandwiched in between, fussing and fretting about what to get the teachers before school lets out.
No one would suggest letting the teachers (or the boss) go without, but at some point the frantic gym enthusiast on the treadmill needs to slow the machine down, and she may even need to get off. It’s okay. Actually a recession offers us the perfect time to crank things down from the perpetual power-walk to a leisurely stroll.
I know that you think that the ideal advice would be to find a moment and think about God and his impending arrival, but instead I would suggest that you take a moment and think of yourself. Not just “Why me?” or “I’m going nuts!” but “For some incomprehensible reason, I am.” Not only here, but now. Not only facing the holidays with so many demands, but without the usual resources.
And consider this. “[God] prepared for the possibility of my existence through the unthinkably long evolution of the world. He desired that the world find its meaning in me as in no other. He laid the foundations of the motives and capacities of my being through long series of generations.” Romano Guardini may never have imagined how meaningful his words could be to frantic mothers in a swirl of wrappings and ribbons, but helpful they are—and laden with truth.
Over the course of Advent, we will hear about the generations that led to Jesus’ birth in the stable. We will wonder at his family tree. We will be told what the various circumstances of his arrival mean in spiritual terms. But the same applies to everyone. This needs to be turned around so that an important truth can be recognized about your existence as well.
All the circumstances of this madcap season and the uncertain year to follow were known from all ages. It is not for us to beg that money and time be multiplied like fishes and loaves, but that the resources we have be used with love. Now of all times people will understand gently used and recycled gifts—treasures from heart to heart and wrapped in memories. Now of all times, a favorite prayer card and a beloved rosary will be not only gratefully received—but probably used. Now of all times will small bags of coffee and a promised visit resonate in lonely and equally anxious hearts. And the visit will quell both.
We can look at our uncertain finances as just an added stress to distract us from finding the elusive joys, or we can recognize in these conditions a gentle corrective to help us find the narrow path. And rather than a treadmill of woe, our new focus will reveal a path straight to the crib.