December 18, 2015

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Have Christ make your heart young again this Christmas

Sean GallagherMy family and I usually wait until the Third Sunday of Advent to fully decorate our house for Christmas. We think that day is fitting for such a happy task since it is known as Gaudete Sunday.

The title of that Sunday in Advent comes from the Latin word for “rejoice.” It is used in the opening antiphon for that weekend’s Mass. What better day, then, to make your house seem joyful than on Gaudete Sunday?

However, we do put up a few decorations earlier. At the start of Advent, we place a Nativity scene on top of the small upright piano in our living room with a small basket in front of the crèche.

As my boys and Cindy and I make sacrifices and try to make the lives of others easier, we take a yellow piece of yarn that we keep nearby, and we place it in the basket. Those pieces of yarn represent the straw that filled the manger in which the Christ Child was laid in Bethlehem. In making sacrifices for the good of others, we are trying spiritually to make a soft bed for the Christ child this Christmas.

This year, however, our usual practice went astray a bit because of the joyful curiosity of our 2-year-old son Colin. He likes the crèche sitting on top of the piano and regularly climbs up on the piano bench to take a closer look at it.

And he’s done more than look. In his exploration of the Nativity set, our St. Joseph figurine has been beheaded. Thankfully, when we started this custom some years ago, we knew from living in a home with several active boys the prudence of displaying a crèche that we could easily part with and is not a family heirloom.

In order to keep the crèche from being entirely smashed to bits, we’ve relocated it, the basket and the yarn to the mantle of our fireplace. As inveterate climber as he is, I don’t think that Colin can get up there yet.

But his constant urge to get close to the Nativity set, look closely at it and, yes, even touch it, is something we adults can take to heart and, with the help of God’s grace, make our own as Christmas approaches.

That might seem a tall task since Colin’s curiosity is partly born of the fact that Christmas is so new to him. He’s basically taking in for the first time the joy of the season in its shiny decorations, cheerful music and smiling faces.

We adults, on the other hand, can easily take all of this for granted. Added to that, we’re also often more busy than usual at this time of year, shopping for friends and relatives and attending holiday gatherings.

But just as Christ opened the eyes of the blind, he can renew our soul to see the glory of Christmas with renewed spiritual eyes. He can make our old heart young again, and fill us with childlike curiosity to come close to him, the babe in Bethlehem.

In these final days before we celebrate Christ’s birth, pray as you hustle from your final shopping trips to the last office party that the Lord might fill your heart anew with his grace. Ask him to help you experience this year’s Christmas with something of the joyful curiosity of a young child like Colin.

That grace can come to you in special ways in the Eucharist, the sacrament of penance and prayerfully reading through the accounts of Christ’s birth in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke.

Becoming more childlike in our spiritual experience of Christmas doesn’t mean that we’ll break our Nativity set figurines, but it will surely make our hearts young again to receive more fully the Lord who came to us as a baby. †

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