As the Christmas season heads towards it’s closing, and New Year resolution ideas pop up more frequent than the stars, I have spent many an hour lost in thought, wondering about what this time of year really means. When life is filled with suffering, grief; how does one find joy at Christmas?
Certainly, to a child it is wonder and joy. As a parent, nothing gives me greater joy than to foster an atmosphere of joy for the children; making memories filled with happiness to tuck into their hearts as they grow.
Christmas time can be a difficult time of year for some, perhaps many.
There is probably not a one of us who doesn’t know a family experiencing difficulties during what commercials and movies promote as the most festive, joyful time of year. This year was not our most joyful. In fact, it has been a very, very difficult Advent, Christmas, New Year included…..
We know others who are experiencing the same. Difficulties, sorrows, life challenges can leave a person feeling the exact opposite of “merry”. Loss of spouse, loss of children, loss of job, sickness, children problems, infertility, mental health issues, lack of family geographically or emotionally……..
The list goes on and on.
Now that I have a few years of life under my belt. I am certain of two things. Life is constantly changing. Suffering is a natural part of life.
What to do?
Especially in our helplessness? Our frailty? Our weakness?
Give up control is the only answer that has come to my mind, and to my heart.
Our little Evelyn has really taken to the short animated version of “The Little Drummer Boy”
She has watched it over and over when she visits. There was so much in that sweet story that touches deeply into the human heart. In the story, Ben Haramed, a thief, vagabond, “wily old desert jackel” kidnaps Aaron, the little drummer boy and forces him to perform for the crowds. Ben Haramed believes riches will make him happy .
Ben Haramed thinks of how much money Aaron’s drumming and singing will make; breaking out in song, “I want to live like a rich man lives, with life in my control…….”
I always want to break out laughing at that point. Right. Control.
What an illusion. (Not to mention Ben Haramed’s using another for his own personal gain, his own selfish, hardened heart completely oblivious to Aaron’s grief and suffering)
When I was a child, my eyes were completely on the Little Drummer Boy.
It is all the adult players in the story who speak to my heart.
Certainly, it is a tragic story. A deeply profound and beautiful story. This year even more profound because we seem to be living so immersed in constant difficulties in more ways than just our Joseph.
There is no “present” that can take away the fact that there is suffering in this life. Not for any of us.
As the story progresses, poor little Aaron. His heart becomes spiritually ill, imprisoned by his own inner anger, bitterness, hate. He is absent all joy, and cannot find peace in his deep distress.
When BaaBaa, the Little Drummer Boy’s sheep gets hit by a speeding cart (tragedy and helplessness) and is lying in the street, Aaron seeks help from one of the Three Wise Kings. “The kings, the kings. They are wise, they can help BaaBaa.” When Aaron asks for help he is dismayed by the king’s response, “He is close to death, I cannot save your little friend…..I am only a mortal king. But there is One who is the King of kings. He can save your little friend.”
“I do not understand,” Aaron’s grieving heart replies.
“It is not necessary for you to understand. Go. Go to Him.”
“I do not have a gift to bring.”
“Go, look upon Him.”
With tears streaming from his face and heart, in anguish that is heartbreaking, Aaron carries his beloved lifeless friend to the Crib, to the One who could help.
I found myself meditating on the beauty of this beloved childhood story every time Evelyn would watch it. “A little child shall lead” Isaiah 11:6
We are celebrating Epiphany now. The story of the Three Kings. They followed the star. What is our star? The world is filled with all kinds of “guides”. It is up to us to discern where the guides we are following are taking us, God will not violate our free will. Are the ones we follow taking us closer to God and His Truth? Or farther away?
The Three Wise Kings possessed endless worldly wealth. They also possesed something more valuable than earthly wealth. Their humility. Their open hearts. Hearts open, not to the false, nor their own stubborn wills, but to God.
There are so many, many false guides in the world in our time. If we allow ourselves to follow those false guides out of a sick self-will, we will soon become as blind as the foolish souls we follow. There is a lovely little prayer that Father John Hardon always encouraged us to pray, “Jesus, I believe, help me in my unbelief. Jesus, I want to see, make me see.”
What is the true meaning of Christmas? The Incarnation.
God loving us so very much, he came to earth in suffering and poverty, humility and surrender. The Star led the Three Wise Kings to Bethlehem, which in hebrew means “house of bread”.
It was a glorious night, a mystery. There is nothing like suffering that leads us closer to the mystery of that Glorious night. Suffering can become a star. The means God uses to draw us closer to Him, away from all that is fleeting, false, even our own inordinate attachments.
It was suffering that brought Aaron to Him the night of the Incarnation. It was God who accepted all the sorrow, bitterness and suffering that so enveloped Aaron’s entire being. It was God who restored the peace and joy in Aaron’s heart.
God revealed Himself to the shepherds, who most would think know nothing. He revealed himself to the Three Wise Kings, who knew so much, but knew they did not know everything; so their hearts remained pure and open. The minute we think we know it all, we close the doors of our hearts.
In the glory of the Christmas Mystery, He came to help us, to love us where all earthly love fails us. He was laid in the manger, a place of food. The manger made of wood. I wonder, was that the very first “altar”. His entire life led back to wood. The wood of the Cross.
There, right there is where God wants me to bring my weary heart, helpless, anxious, sad, hopeless. Just as I am. Knowing nothing; seeking only to look upon Him. He is the One who governs all, despite my obstinate heart, despite illness, handicaps and lost directions.
For the this New Year I have only one resolution.
To surrender my heart, to offer all that we are, all that we have, all that we do not have. Give Him our hearts and our lives, asking Him to be our guide and our Savior.
We offer our hearts in quiet stillness at the Crib, at the foot of the Cross. At the crib, and cross, we find Blessed Mother; our Mother. She so patiently waits for the broken hearted child. She will take care of all we cannot, according to God’s Will, in His time, and in His own way.
Surrender in the midst of darkness and suffering. Sometimes, it is the only way we learn to turn our hearts towards God. That is a very great Christmas gift indeed.
Dear friends, I pray your Christmas time was filled with blessings, love and joy. Even more, I pray that you find rest, a renewed strength for whatever difficulties you will face in life, through the intercession of Mary, whom God chose as our mother too. May She intercede and be your guide, leading you in peace and joy, into the radiance of God’s Triumphant Love.
Last night at Mass, Father said we could never begin to comprehend the mystery of what takes place at every altar, at every Holy Mass. When all that we offer enters into direct contact with God, where all is offered as a gift to God’s Divine Love. There our hearts can be transformed, filled with Divine Love. Father had such a quiet, sure, joy and awe as he said, “Do you ever notice? That when we leave Mass, there is such a joy in us that was not in us when we first arrived?”
Even in the deepest sufferings, we can have peace and joy. Not in false gods, nor false guides. Only the pure love of surrender, in heroic childlikeness, offering every joy and sorrow of our lives to Him. Relying on Him alone for strength and guidance. Only in His care can we live life to its fullest, in joy and peace. We can let suffering, handicap, loss, disease, hardship rule and break our hearts and darken our lives, or not.
I don’t want a bitter heart. I don’t want to follow wrong paths. This means for me, only one choice. To let go of all that is out of our control and give it to heaven. But the best “gift” of all is that God does not expect anything of us, and gives His Love so freely in return. God’s radiant triumphant love entered the world more than 2,000 years ago through His Son.
The smallest One lying in the crib.
Now I know I don’t have to have a New Year’s resolution that could vaporize before February!
We didn’t get cards sent this year, so we hope you know this greeting comes with love and so much gratitude to all of our family and friends, and we humbly continue to accept all prayers offered for our family; especially our Joe.
And we always pray for all of you!
Wishing you all a very blessed Happy New Year 2017!