Christmas is one of those times of the year when we are most likely to fool ourselves. We assume that in order to get into the Christmas spirit we must engage in a certain number of activities, “get into” the spirit of the season, or find ourselves in places full of the holiday trappings that might help to enhance our delight in the season. To be sure, many of these initiatives do help us feel more in synch with what the world seems to be telling us that we should be feeling this time of year. Rarely, however, do these projects or places deliver on what they promise; somehow as much as we try to arrange for the spirit of Christmas to descend upon us it remains elusive.
It is not that we are doing the wrong thing, or finding ourselves in the wrong places; it is simply that the moment when Christmas truly comes to us is something we cannot arrange on our own.
However, it does come on its own accord, and quite often it comes in that moment when we are caught off guard. It may come in a quiet interlude when all of the Christmas chores are done; it may happen at the end of Christmas dinner when the family is satiated and begins to share memories of Christmases past or those much-loved family stories; it may happen when an individual who finds the season such a lonely one at long last feels a moment of peace and comfort; it may come when some Christmas music catches us off guard, prompting us to recall a memory we associate with it; it may come when we hear the words of scripture that open to us a new dimension of the Incarnation, as if for the first time, even though we have heard those words on so many occasions in the past.
In such moments Christmas truly comes to us, and we are reminded that there is no true way we can make this happen on our own initiative. Like the very message of Christmas itself, it comes to us as a gift; our task is simply to be open to the moment when Christmas does make its presence known to us, as it surely will.
During the upcoming two weeks you may make a trip—or indeed many trips!—back to your school, in order to catch up on some of the tasks that just did not get done prior to vacation. The hallways may seem empty, an ironic aftermath to the frenzy of activity and celebration that characterizes those last few days before the Christmas break begins. The holiday decorations may feel a bit weathered, even though we are still in the midst of the season proper. There may be gifts or Christmas cards left on your desk that arrived after the close of school, and a handful of e-mails or voice mail messages from parents or faculty members hopefully sending their good wishes of the season or possible expressions of delight over the final pre-Christmas chapel. It may seem a strange time, but I have also found it to be a time ripe with potential for the spirit of Christmas to make itself known once again in our hearts. Be alert to what that stillness, those empty hallways, may be saying to us as an antidote to the busyness of the season. They may be telling us what our souls are longing to hear: Christmas has come! God is with us!
The NAES staff wishes you a very happy Christmas season—one in which the Christmas moment does indeed arrive!—and a new year full of many blessings!