By Joanna Collins,
Written exclusively for St. Brendan Parishioners
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Advent is a time for remembering. The secular world would have us believe the reason for this is that past Christmases were just better, with more joy, more snow, more family time, that it really would be best to give up on the worry and stress of today, and just relive the past.
But there’s a different kind of remembering, a remembering that brings us peace, while allowing us to move forward with hope. A remembering that helps us prepare, and grow in right relationship with the Lord, because it reveals who we are and where we came from. How did we get to this place in our life? Is it where we want to be? Are we right with ourselves, and with God? Have we opened our hearts to Him?
Remembering takes time, and awareness, and if there’s anything this season lacks, it’s spare time. A few weeks ago, I found myself listening to Father Roger’s homily about the importance of slowing down. Ironically, it was while at the gym, running my fastest on a treadmill to squeeze in some exercise between the other jobs and errands befitting a mom of four this time of year. I felt as though a hand were tapping me on the shoulder, asking “What’s the hurry? Where are you going?” To avoid the questions, I switched to my running playlist, saving the homily for the car between errands and that necessary Starbucks stop.
Ironic, isn’t it, that year after year we listen to the story of the Nativity, with those “bad guy” inn keepers who can’t manage to find room in their crowded inns for one small baby to be born, one who will bring salvation to the world, yet too often we’re no better: crowding out what is most important for the sake of “doing it all.” What should be a season of great joy turns into a time of great stress, and guilt, and berating ourselves for not meeting all the expectations, for falling too far behind. Jesus tells us, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” If Christmastime brings us so far from peace, maybe we’re doing something wrong. Maybe we need to start remembering.
Life is a journey, not a race. How easy to miss the wonders around us, if we spend our time running through it, our only focus being to beat the person in front of us.
This Christmas, as we prepare to welcome Emmanuel, let us remember God’s promise to be with us always. Not in a better past, or in a distant future, but now. Is there room for Him in our hearts this Christmas?
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep: The wrong shall fail, the right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men.”
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