As we begin this last week of Advent, we focus on believing. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45).
By: Laraine Bennett, Guest Contributor
One of the joys of Christmas morning is watching your children (or your grandchildren, or nephews and nieces) as they bound downstairs eager to find what Santa brought during the night. Their eyes widen in wonder as they contemplate the Christmas tree laden with gifts. It’s a magical, joyous time. Parents often jump through hoops to keep their kids believing in Santa.
Some parents worry that when their kids find out that Santa (I mean the guy who squeezes down your chimney on Christmas Eve and eats the cookies you left) isn’t real, they might generalize the point and come to the conclusion that God isn’t real, too! Fearing this outcome, a few parents decide to skip Santa all together. Other parents allow Santa, but focus on the very real bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas, and preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ child.
Whatever our traditions, so long as they are practiced within the context of sound formation and healthy spirituality, they are surely gifts to our faith. In fact, our Advent and Christmas traditions are signs of God’s love.
When we joyously enter into the spirit of giving, the expression of our love for each other in generosity, we are reminded of the greatest gift of all—that Jesus Christ, the Son of God born of Mary, wants to be so near to us that he chooses to come as a helpless babe.
God draws near, so that we can believe in Him.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes in The Blessing of Christmas that all our Advent and Christmas traditions have, at the core, an inner meaning rooted in Scripture. Our traditions—lights, Christmas trees, Advent wreath, Christmas baking and the giving of gifts—make visible the joyous words of Scripture heralding the coming of the Lord of all creation. Pope Benedict offers us an example:
…All the trees of the wood will clap their hands, for the Lord, the ruler, is coming to rule forever.
It is a joyous message of salvation—of making straight what is crooked, of liberating the oppressed, of bringing healing to the wounded human heart. When we say “I believe” we express this deepest longing and we acknowledge that God is the only one who can ultimately satisfy it.
This is why Christmas has become the feast when we give presents, when we imitate the God who has given his own self…Ultimately, all this finds its unity in the joy that God has become a child who encourages us to trust as children trust and to give and receive gifts.
—Joseph Ratzinger The Blessing of Christmas)
So, during this Advent season, let us respond to God’s drawing near by renewing our sense of wonder, openness to the gift, and childlike trust—“I believe!” —as we contemplate the many signs of God’s love.
Laraine Bennett is the author of A Year of Grace: 365 Reflections for Caregivers and the co-author with her husband Art of four popular books on temperament, including The Temperament God Gave You. The Bennett’s are members of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville and have four adult children (who all get along!) and two grandchildren.
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