The Deep Healing of Christmas
Haven't had the most focused Advent? It's okay. Let's start again. Jesus is waiting to make all things new.
Last month, I wrote about laying a foundation for healing during Advent. Everything during this time of preparation should be oriented toward receptivity to the great gift of Christmas, which is encounter with Christ the King. The point of healing is not simply to be well for our state in life (although that is a great good!), but so that we might approach His manger-throne with clarity and purity... to be capable of full surrender to His sovereign love.
Haven't had the most focused Advent? It's okay. Let's start again. Jesus is waiting to make all things new. We can do this by entering into the season with authenticity, childlike energy, and total surrender.
We prepare during Advent to celebrate Christ, yet it is tempting to make the celebration only about Him instead of deeply rooted in Him. A superficial Christmas is similar to posting a meme about prayer on Facebook without actually praying it. We might go through the motions, expressing every external piety, and fool ourselves into thinking that we have reached the pinnacle of Christmas…
Filled with cheer. Sated with food. Arms filled with gifts. Family present. And yet we often fail to go deeper, into the depths with Christ, the Divine Healer.
To avoid making an idol of Christmas for its own sake, our faith must become deeply sincere and practical. The first step is acknowledging the need for transformation and opening up to the possibility that an authentic Advent might not look like anything we have experienced before. Perhaps begin and end each day with a sincere and simple prayer, something like this:
“Lord Jesus, please show me your face. Make Your will my will. I surrender. Change my life. Transform me by your grace, that I may look back on this Christmas as the beginning of a radical new life in You.”
Healing is not a passive effort but involves a tirelessness which knows when to run and when to rest. It requires our will and our intelligence, to correctly discern which efforts bring health and which leave us depleted, stagnant, or backsliding. But it also requires a childlikeness which expands our capacity for hope and healing.
Not all energetic efforts are the same. To run energetically towards Christ is not the same as racing frantically toward Christmas Day, so we must discern which actions are wasteful and which are healing. We also have different levels of energy depending on our health status or state in life. I am not suggesting adding busyness or an increased pace, but a childlike stretching for what is beautiful. God does not wish to be an accessory to our Christmas, but He wants to be our everything.
How many of us sacrifice the gift of our health, our peace, and our awareness of Christ so that we might meet the superficial demands of the world? We elevate the idea of innocence and wonder… but undermine it in ourselves.
During prayer or throughout the day, perhaps imagine yourself as a young child running energetically towards the Christmas tree. There are no presents wrapped there, only the Christ Child. Your heart’s desire is to hold Him, to sit with him, and to dance forever in His beautiful peace.
On the first Sunday of Advent this year, I lost a dear family member. A week later, we said goodbye at the cemetery and now step unsteadily back into the flow of the holiday season. The grief is a burden, but the Rite of Christian Burial always brings an anointed clarity. We are reminded that Christmas Day is not the goal line, and our hearts must not stay fixated there.
As a mother of a large family, I am convinced that the art of Christmas preparation is really the act of surrendering with joy. I can’t recall a holiday season which didn’t have a significant disruption because of sickness or other life circumstances.
I’ve lost presents and ruined meals. We’ve had stomach bugs and busted plumbing. Sometimes relationships are painful or strained. And yet…
The repeated act of surrendering the mind, body, and will to Christ and to His eternal truths makes Christmas transformative, as it ought to be. We don’t have the power to change anything without Him. Whatever our circumstances, the light of Jesus Christ is the answer to our need. It is only in true encounter with Him that deep healing is possible.
As German priest and martyr, Fr. Alfred Delp, wrote from a Nazi prison:
“We will be better able to cope with life, more efficient and capable of life, if we open ourselves to the instructions of this coming night. Let us hike and journey onward, neither avoiding nor shunning the streets and terror of life. Something new has been born in us, and we do not want to tire of believing the star of the promises and acknowledging the singing angels’ Gloria–even if it is sometimes through tears. Our distress has truly become transformed, because we have been raised above it.”