To experience the joy of Christmas, you must first have the need for Christmas.
We are about 5 days into the Christmas season and I am sure that you would have been asked before the season began, what do you want for Christmas? What was your response? Is it that you wanted a new car, a new phone, something techy. What was your response? For me personally more often than not, I do not really know what I want for Christmas. So when my wife asked me what I wanted, my response was, “Love, I really don’t know”.
Let’s change this around a little. If God were to ask you before Christmas, what do you want for Christmas, what would your response be? What if God were to send his messenger Gabriel to tell you, “I want to help you. What do you want from me?” What would your response be? Would it be the same as if someone, say your father or mother, your spouse or sibling were to ask? Hold onto that thought for a little while.
Undoubtedly Christmas is described as the season of great joy. However, to experience the joy of Christmas, you must first have the need for Christmas. Put in another way, if I do not see a need for Christmas and all that it stands for, then I can never truly experience the joy of Christmas. Do we experience, or do we see a need for Christ in our lives? Do I need God? Do I need the experience of faith in the Catholic Church? Do I believe that I need to experience Christ in the Eucharist, or is this just being done out of pure obligation? Again, the extent to which we experience the joy of Christmas is directly related to the extent to which we see a need for Christmas and what it stands for in our lives.
Here is a real example of what I mean by this. Christmas Day this year fell on a Monday. What this meant was that Christmas worship will take place outside of the normal weekend or Sunday mass. In other words, Catholics were asked to attend Mass twice for the weekend; once for the normal weekend Mass which would end off the Advent season, and the other time for the Christmas celebration. Unfortunately very many Catholics chose to go only once. They did not see the need for both celebrations in one weekend. Many chose to forgo the weekend Mass and only attend the Christmas Mass. The need for Eucharist in their lives is of no real significance.
At the heart of Christmas is not gift-giving, nor is it a fun time that we spend with our family and friends. At the heart of Christmas is Jesus Christ who gave up his divinity to be one with us, to set us free from our sins. If we are not at a place where we understand who Jesus is, and recognize how much we need Jesus in our lives, Christmas day would be but another really nice day where we get together with family and friends, and lights are beautiful and the gifts are nice, and the food was great. It will not be something that we need. The experience of Christmas day will not be one that is of any great significance in our lives; and here in Trinidad and Tobago, Christmas will just mean for us the start of the Carnival season. Time to fete! If we do not recognize first off, that we are sinners desperately in need of a savior, then Christmas Day would be a time for us to get drunk and have a good time. The spiritual aspect of it just would not be important to us. In fact, it would be more of a humbug than anything else. Sad to say, very many Catholics and Christians are at this stage. The reality is that we are absolutely hopeless without Jesus Christ in our lives. It is God, through Jesus Christ his son, who makes the difference in this crazy world. Outside of the existence, and love, and the mercy of God, absolutely nothing would make sense.
Christmas is the celebration of a real person – Jesus Christ – who came into the world and changed it forever; and who desires to change your world as well. The question is, is this what we want? Do we want Jesus Christ to change our world? Do I want Jesus Christ to transform and to change my world or do we have it all covered? “I don’t need your help Lord. I’m fine. I prefer you as the distant God, far removed from my situations. I’ve got my world covered. You can stay in your world and I’ll stay in mine. I’ll give you a shout if I need you.” Is this what we think; how we think? The reality of Christmas reveals what is truly in our hearts; and it turns out that, well; I want what I want.
Christmas brings us to the realization that what we want and what God wants more often than not, are two different things. I started this post by asking the question, “what do you want for Christmas?” What if you were to ask God what he wanted for Christmas, what do you suppose his response would be? Do you suppose God would need the latest iPhone? Do you suppose that God would need a bigger house? What do you think God would want for Christmas? The answer is actually a whole lot simpler than you think. All God wants for Christmas is you. All God wants for Christmas Is me. All he wants is us, you and me. He wants your heart, he wants my heart. God wants us to enter into personal relationship with him, through Christ Jesus his son, so that when we pray “Our Father”, we really do understand what we pray, and we mean Our Father! God wants for us to enter into a deep relationship with him, the kind of relationship that existed before sin stepped into the world. God wants us to love him in return. That is all God wants.
If we are able to understand what is in the heart of God, if we are able to wrap our minds around what God wants, then in response to the question, of what do you want for Christmas, our response should be, Lord that you should change our hearts. Our response should be Lord help me to love. Help me to love you in return. Help me to open my mind and my heart to you. Help me not to resist you anymore. Help me Lord to surrender to you. It is then we can and will experience the true joy of Christmas, not just at Christmas time, but throughout our lives.