This past Sunday, the Catholic Church celebrated the Baptism of the Lord. Since that is the last day of Christmas, my husband and I took down our tree and Christmas lights and packed up our decorations until next Advent. I looked around the living room after running the vacuum and putting curtains back up on the front window and thought, “It looks like Christmas never happened here.”
While this isn’t a bad thing for our homes – while I love Christmas decorations, there’s not much past little lights that I’d want up year-round – we want to be sure that this isn’t how our lives look.
There are all manner of Christmas songs you hear on the radio that wistfully talk about the idea of Christmas all-year-long. Every year, it seems that we break out the Christmas songs and decorations earlier and earlier. There’s a radio station where I live that starts 24/7 Christmas music on November 1! People long for Christmas, for the feeling of goodwill that comes about as we all turn ourselves outward and give to each other.
But as Catholics, we know that this is not a Christmas-only mindset. Christians are called to always look outside of themselves and reach out to others with a giving heart. We should spend our Advent season making room in our hearts for the Christ Child – room that wasn’t available to the Holy Family in Bethlehem. At Christmas, we welcome Him and renew our efforts to live a life centered around the Lord. We look to the saints as our inspiration, especially the Blessed Mother, and ponder in our hearts the beautiful mystery of the Incarnation.
And when we ponder it properly, the Incarnation changes us.
We should remind ourselves that Christ came for each of us. He came for you. He came for me. Even though I’m a mess. Even though I’m not consistent in my spiritual life. Even though I’m sometimes a big, fat jerk to people.
He still came for me. He still loves me.
And knowing this – that Christ came for me and loves me in spite of all of my weaknesses – should translate into something long after Christmas has come and gone.
I need to look at the world through this lens. I need to see that even when I’m dealing with someone who is being a jerk or who is a total mess, I’m called to love that person in front of me. I’m called to show them respect and consideration, and to strive to do it in the same way Jesus did when He walked this earth.
When we, as Christians, live our lives in this manner, it will feel like Christmas all year long. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll reclaim Advent and celebrate Christmas in the traditional way: for at least 12 days beginning on December 25.