I wanted Christmas to be perfect, but God had other plans.
I really wanted to feel some Christmas cheer, truly I did. But try as I might, I simply could not get into the Christmas spirit.
I frantically finished tasks, met deadlines and watched the calendar move further and further into December.
“I’m just tired,” I thought. “Maybe a Christmas movie will help,” as I settled into “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Sadly, even that classic couldn’t lift it.
I attributed my weariness to busy travels, a recent death in the family, and the many preparations for my religious community’s Jubilee celebration a few weeks before.
On Christmas Eve, as I returned from work, I felt exhausted and felt a headcold coming on.
“Snap out of it!” I told myself, “You live on Ebenezer Road, and your name is Mary Joseph, for heaven’s sake!” What was wrong with me? “I just need a break,” I thought.
But I could not dispel the sense of emptiness.
My superiors were kind and allowed me after Christmas a few days of rest with my family. I went to my sister’s house and hoped for joy and a festive spirit.
It was not to be! A toothache settled in, my cold got worse, and my whole body ached!
I didn’t want to infect the family so I holed up in the guest room, binge watching “Downton Abbey.” “At least I can check Downton off my bucket list.”
An emergency dental visit confirmed an abscessed tooth and the promise of a root canal. Wow, this was going from bad to worse!
I watched the extravagance and ease of the nobility on “Downton” and I thought of Jesus Christ. Here He was the King of Kings and yet he chose to be born into poverty. He didn’t have butlers or footmen; rather He came Himself to serve, not to be served.
I was able to get to daily Mass those days, albeit armed with cold meds, bottled water and hand sanitizer!
And I found Bethlehem there. At daily Mass.
Nothing extraordinary happened to be sure. Everything was quite ordinary, even mundane.
They were simple people who filled the pews, not unlike the shepherds of old, who came to find a King.
My whole Christmas was so commonplace. Not exotic like those bejeweled Magi! Those kings were amazing! And they had wonderful gifts to lay at the Child’s feet!
“I have nothing to give you, dear Lord, nothing but this headache, this head cold, these worrisome thoughts.”
“Give Me your myrrh.”
“What?” I said interiorly.
“Give Me your myrrh.”
Myrrh. For mortality, for death? What a gift! For Christmas? A season of ‘Joy to the World’, merriment and mirth, presents and parties? Myrrh?
I sighed. Ok. He wants my myrrh. I would give Him my myrrh – to this Divine Child who came to die for me.
I would lay before Him all my misery, my sickness, my worries, my failures. Recent deaths and the grief of dear ones.
I would give Him my emptiness, the darkness that had robbed me of so much wonder at Christmas, my lonesomeness for the people and joys that I seemed to have lost.
Such were my offerings. With tears springing to my eyes, as if ashamedly, I laid such burdens down before the precious Babe. For Christmas was supposed to be perfect, wasn’t it?
“Mine wasn’t,” He said.
It startled me. But of course! The Lord Jesus had come ‘unto His own, and His own did not accept Him.’ He knew cold. Hunger. A flight into a foreign land from murderous enemies. It was true, His own first Christmas was far from perfect!
I realized that I had been mourning the loss of my childhood, because it seemed I could not return to its wonder and security.
But the restorer of my peace, security and hope lay here in the manger, and, sacramentally, on the altar before me.
Yes, Christ my hope had come, shining like a brilliant star to light my way, his Heart burning like a torch to melt in me the frozen and warm the chill. He came to me bearing love, a new day, a new life!
I left my myrrh and went home by another route.
And so as the churches this week divest their Christmas adornments, the Christmas figures are packed carefully away, and life resumes its drab routine, for me, I am just beginning to celebrate my Christmas. I’m expecting the celebration to last all year long.
Christ is born for us! O come, let us adore Him.