This may not be the most startling news you stumble across in this morning’s paper, but if you flip the page on your wall calendar today you will discover that tomorrow is December 1.
For many people the arrival of December conjures visions of the Sugar Plum Fairy dancing in their heads, warm cozy family times nestled by the fire, gourmet meals prepared with love, friendly gatherings, and transcendent musical events. For others the arrival of December brings feelings of panic.
There are parties to plan, gifts to choose, buy, and wrap, homes to decorate, social and cultural events to attend, difficult family dynamics to navigate, office parties to endure, and, after it all, mounting bills to pay. The pressures can be paralyzing, the tensions utterly overwhelming.
It was not meant to be like this.
Christmas started out as a celebration of mystery, wonder and beauty. It is a season rooted in the silence, stillness and peace that for Christians are embodied in the person of Jesus.
How did we ever get from the strong, steady peacefulness in which this season was born to the frantic orgy of consumption and activity that it so often becomes? What is it that drives us to rush into more and more activity and seek endlessly increasing accumulation?
In the original story of Jesus’ birth upon which Christmas is based, a young man and his pregnant fiancé were forced to make a difficult journey to a small village in Palestine. When Mary and Joseph reached bustling Bethlehem, the writer of Luke’s Gospel says, “there was no place for them.”
We frantically fill our lives with activity and stuff because we are afraid there is “no place” for us. We worry that, if we stand at the door and knock, we will be turned away to face alone the dark emptiness that we fear resides at the centre of life. There is in each of us a small lonely place that feels we do not truly belong. So we rush to fill our lives in a desperate attempt to avoid facing this place that feels like empty space.
But Christmas announces that this forsaken place is not the final reality about the human condition. Christmas claims that we are not alone in an uncaring desolate universe.
When word came announcing the birth of Jesus, Joseph was told that the baby to be born into his family would be called “’Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us.’”
There are no empty places.
As the nineteenth century British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” Even in the shadows of our loneliness, Christmas announces that all life is filled with beauty and light.
As I turn the page to December and contemplate the busyness and distraction I know will fill the next three weeks, it is especially important that I take a moment to stop and be still. In the quiet space I create I will discover the true gift of this season.
When I stop and listen deeply, I find I am not alone. My life is held in light. I am a child of goodness. The centre of life is the steady presence and power of love that will never forsake me and never let me down.
Christopher Page is the rector of St. Philip Anglican Church in Oak Bay, and the Archdeacon of Tolmie in the Anglican Diocese of B.C. He writes regularly at: www.inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com
You can read more article from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE
*This article was published in the Faith Forum section of the print edition of the Times Colonist on Nov 30 2013