What if you went home after Christmas Mass today and immediately starting taking down the tree and all the house decorations? What if you removed the Christmas lights and returned all the gifts? What if you gave away all the cookies, candies and drinks? What if you turned off the Christmas music and blew out all the Christmas candles? And what if you had hot dogs for dinner? What would that leave you with? A lot of people would say, “no Christmas.” And that is absolutely correct—if there is nothing else.
But is there something else? I invite you to think about some things. Think about being sick or afraid of being sick, with all the consequences that would mean for your everyday life. Think about the arguments you’ve had, the fights, the bad feelings, the tension in your house. Think about a lost job or the threat of losing it and not being able to make ends meet. Think about the latest robbery in your neighborhood—perhaps it was your own house. Think about the drunk driver and the fact that you or someone you love might be the next victim. Think about the times you have completely lost control of yourself and the despair it caused you inside or perhaps the violence it led you to do to others around you. Think about being arrested for a crime you didn’t commit—or perhaps you did. Think about the prejudice you’ve experienced because of your skin color or your religion or some other condition in your life. Think about losing faith in God and maybe even going to hell.
When each of us removes the trappings of Christmas, what have we got left? What’s left, really, is us and everything else in our life just like it has been the whole year long. But that is great! When you and I let ourselves look at our reality, feel what is really going on in us, and not decorate our lives to cover it over, we can begin to feel the need for a Savior. And that is what Christmas is really all about. “I proclaim to you good news of great joy . . . a savior has been born for you” (Lk 2:10-11).
Can we go to the manger and just let it speak to us? The only glitter we will see is the soft light coming down from the heavens into our messy world. We will experience a natural calm were everything seems to be in good order. We will hear only a gentle song of joy that lifts us up. When we go to the manger and let it speak to us we will see good people living for a loving God. We will see a mother—and she is also ours! And then, finally, we will see revealed the Savior born for us!
The big question isn't: "What present do I want others to give me for Christmas?" The question rather is: is there not something each of us needs to be saved from in our lives? And, so, there he is, the Savior. He was born for that. He was born to make my life Christmas.
Our greatest challenge of the season is not “getting ready for Christmas,” which we do with a great deal of energy, time and expense. The real challenge is to let Christmas get me ready for life. And that takes just a little bit of faith, even as small as a mustard seed, just a little bit of faith in the Babe. That little bit of faith is the real Christmas decoration of my life.
When each of us goes to the manger this Christmas, whether it be alone or with others, let us go to be saved by the Savior. It is only then that we can truly have a “merry” Christmas.