Merry Christmas, friends! Christmas is meant to inspire us with joy, awe, and gratitude for the gift of the Incarnation and all of its amazing ramifications for our lives. However, Christmastime is also notorious for a general uptick of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation, even among the population of faithful Christians. We all deal with this from time to time throughout our lives, and it is easy to get caught up in a culture that promotes the image of a perfect “holiday celebration” including perfect meals, perfect gifts, perfect decorations, all of the perfect Christmas “feelings” and all of the “perfect” people to share it all with. It's easy to get frustrated when our reality does not look like everyone else’s Christmas cards.
My Advent was not perfect, and yet again, I was not prepared for Christmas. It happens every year, and Jesus still shows up, thankfully. However, one image that kept returning during my time of prayer was the image of the EMPTY MANGER. However, the empty manger was not your typical, idealized empty manger scene depicting a solid, perfectly polished wooden structure with warm, golden hay spilling out of it, bathed in the warm glow of light from above. It was something more like the following…a little closer to the truth:
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t put anything of value inside of this thing. However, what we celebrate during this season is that Jesus put Himself inside of it. The manger is you: Your heart, your inner life, your inner world, your mind, your body, your whole person, everything that you are, and everything that you experience, authentically.
Jesus wants to be there. The very love of the Father was so intense, so alive, so deep, so real, that He desired to dwell right inside of YOU, right where you are today. He desired to be in the mess of:
-Your fear about the future
-Your disordered desires
-Your sinful habits
-Your lack of trust
-Your lack of virtue
Not so that you can remain in it, but so that by Him entering into that spot, He can transform it into something unimaginably awesome. He enters into the mess of your heart so that He can reveal to you who you truly are and empower you to live in freedom as His beloved. Mary, the perfect Mother, did not “sterilize” the circumstances of the birth of Christ…she did not sterilize the manger. Why? Because she knew that the mess was exactly where Jesus was meant to be, and she, herself, placed Him there.
I’ll leave you with these following words from the Prophet Isaiah:
“No more shall people call you ‘Forsaken’, or your land ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My Delight’, and your land ‘Espoused.’ For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you, and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”
I encourage you not to allow the “celebration” and all of the things around it to be the source of your joy this Christmas…but let Jesus, your joy, and how much He loves you and desires you, to be the wellspring of your celebration.
We are beyond blessed with an amazing community of teens, young adults, priests, consecrated men and women, and families who are striving to live out Christ's invitation to authentic love and who have gifts to share their journeys through writing.