I love when babies are born. There is something so incredible and special about fresh little humans! Something I really love is the celebration around them. New life is a pure gift and we love to adorn the child and family with presents, meals, and congratulations for days (and sometimes weeks) after.
Then each year after, we commemorate that day with birthday celebrations. But nothing is quite as special as that first birthday and nothing quite as celebrated.
I feel like Christmas, according to most American standards, is treated kind of like an overly festive, but still ordinary, birthday. A lot of planning, some money spent, a day with family and good eating, and the next day is just a regular day again. One day celebration. Bam. Moving on.
But as Catholics, we owe it to ourselves to dig deeper than that. Because this isn’t how the Church treats Christmas at all. During Advent, we spend four entire weeks preparing for Christ to come into our hearts in a deeper way, preparing for His second coming again someday, and preparing to celebrate when He first came more than 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. The season of Christmas is days long as we unpack and relish everything we prepared for during Advent.
As a mother, I’m always amazed how close to heaven I feel at each of my children’s births. It seems as if time stops completely. I am bound up in the present moment. I endure immense suffering, but with a purpose that will last for eternity. The soul God breathed into each tiny body at the moment of conception, finally in my arms. I feel as if I could stay in those first precious moments we meet forever. I taste suffering and joy so inexplicably raw I feel like I might burst.
And so, we delight in this new life, snuggle in, and just be for days on end. I heal, the baby learns to nurse, the family gets to know our new normal, and we adjust. It’s a process that forms our heart to be more capable of love and self-sacrifice. A holy, messy, and deep process. Because of that, we celebrate. Families visit to meet the newest addition. Friends drop off meals. Balloons and gifts adorn the walls. We don’t just do it for one day because all that new life holds can’t be contained in just one day. We spread it out because it feels right. The process begs to be noticed, to be celebrated.
This is the kind of celebration we are called to each Christmas. To wait with the Virgin in anticipation of the birth of the Christ-child. And when He is born, to go through the process again. We pray, we love, we give. We ask Jesus to change us. We become more capable of love as He is born into hearts in a deeper way and He calls us to the way of discipleship. It is holy, messy, and deep.
This year, what would happen if we treated Christmas as more than a birthday in our families? How would it look to celebrate Christmas for days no matter how today went? What weighs on your heart, weary pilgrim? The mother after birth is worn out and in pain, but finds strength and joy in her new child. This Christmas, be okay with the pain you feel after traveling through Advent. Perhaps God has a plan. Perhaps it was all part of the process and now He is asking you to stay with Him in the manger, to continue celebrating Christmas, and keep going through that process with Mary and Joseph at your side.
It’s not too late to make this Christmas the best Christmas ever. The stores will tell you it’s over, the Church tells you it’s just begun.
Merry Christmas! The Savior has come!