By Fr. Erik Esparza
Christmas Season is a joy filled time full of festive gatherings, family get-togethers, and religious services. The days leading up to Christmas and even the immediate days after can be full of activities. In many ways those activities can make it very difficult to pause and quietly reflect on the Reason for the Season!
It’s unfortunate that Santa Claus, Christmas trees, eggnog lattes and days of shopping can distract us from the time needed to contemplate what Christmas is really all about. It is not to say that decorations and sharing is a bad thing, yet if we cannot find quiet moments to reflect on the WHO and WHAT of Christmas, there is a danger we miss out on the true meaning of Christmas - JESUS and GOD’S LOVE. Perhaps we will never fully comprehend this life-altering birth, but this shouldn’t stop us from taking time to quiet ourselves to ponder the newborn King. In some ways we need to use the Christmas Season to be more like St. Joseph.
As we know, the Gospels say very little about St. Joseph. Still, there is much to learn from this humble, obedient, and righteous man. The little we do know about Joseph comes to us from the Gospel of Matthew. There is no doubt Joseph had an important role in the life of Jesus. From the beginning of Jesus’ life, Joseph was present to him and Mary. He was faithful and attentive to the will of the Father. St. Joseph shows us the importance of silence in our lives. Silence does not mean a person is unconcerned or uninterested. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in speaking about St. Joseph, says, “His is a silence permeated by contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of total availability to His divine wishes. In other words, the silence of St Joseph was not the sign of an inner void, but on the contrary, of the fullness of faith he carried in his heart, and which guided each and every one of his thoughts and actions.”
In a society all too often filled with much noise and egocentric behavior, we can learn much from St. Joseph. We can use his example to find time for silence and to make ourselves more available to God.
The Christmas Season really begins on December 25th and ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This gives us the time to be more like St. Joseph, quiet and reflective on the presence of God. One idea that can help you ponder the experience of Christmas is to pray and reflect while you take down your Christmas decorations. You can reflect on the meaning of light as you remove the Christmas lights from the house and place them in a box. Perhaps contemplate the manger scene and its significance as you put away each piece for next year. Also, as you remove the ornaments from the tree, think about the origin of each ornament and the many gifts/blessings you have received including the great gift of salvation in Jesus. Finally, like St. Joseph, be better about removing distractions and idle chatter to provide you more room and space for contemplating where it is that God may be calling you as you enter into a new year 2017. I pray these days fill you with joy, love, and hope. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you and your family!
Now go forth and be a joyful witness!
Fr, Esparza is Associate Director of the Office of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.