December 1

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’
--Matthew 7: 21, 24-27 (NRSV)

Today would have been my mother’s 71st birthday. It’s my second without her, but I still mark the day with prayer and thanksgiving for all the blessings of her life. My mother was a sensible woman who built her house on rock … the solid foundation of God’s love. Everything my mother did was founded on this love. From the home she created for her family to the inmates she assisted in her job at the county jail. Her days were filled with small acts of kindness to everyone who crossed her path. Sometimes her actions might have seemed a wee bit crazy, but rooted in love she was never really shaken from her overarching desire to share that love.

Mary too must have known the importance of building a house on a solid foundation. I imagine the expectant young mother, readying her life and home for the new child Jesus on the way. This was of course made more complicated by the flight into Egypt and other dramas of the Christmas story. Sometimes her actions might have also seemed a wee bit crazy, like listening to an angel for one thing, but rooted in God’s love she was not shaken. Thinking of the teenaged Mary facing the unknown with such faith and trust only increases my awe at the inner strength she must have had. She did not just say, “Lord, Lord,” but truly welcomed God into her life … literally.

It’s the first day of December. Only 24 days left to go until Christmas. Many of us I’m sure are overwhelmed by our to do lists and wondering how, in the midst of our busy lives, we will ever manage to get everything done in time.
But what are we busy doing? Are we readying our homes and hearts in expectation of the birth of the child Jesus, or are we instead readying and decorating our houses built on sand? In our culture it is so easy to get wrapped up in the Christmas frenzy. Presents. Shopping. Decorations. Parties. More presents, shopping, decorations and parties. Questions, doubts and general anxiety. Is this the right present? Did I buy enough for my kids? How will I afford it all? Not to mention doubts about the quality of one’s own Christmas light display, cookie assortment and holiday hostess prowess. Christmas can sometimes seem like a competition instead of a holy day of prayer and thanksgiving.

A few years ago the Peace & Justice Commission at my parish organized an educational session called “Unplugging the Christmas Machine.” The purpose was to help people who felt overwhelmed by Christmas evaluate their plans and decide what was really important in light of the true Christmas message. Unfortunately, many were too busy preparing for Christmas to attend!

I remember one year growing up when my mother was so proud of herself for getting the bulk of her Christmas shopping done ahead of schedule. But she was then faced with a dilemma … where to hide the presents? The five of us were so adept at finding her hiding places in the house, that given the extra time we would surely discover them and ruin the surprise. She had what she considered a brilliant idea and ended up storing our presents in the trunk of her car, which only she had a key to. Problem solved.

Until one day very close to Christmas she came out of the shopping center to discover the trunk of her car open, and the bulk of the presents stolen. Horror of horrors! Talk about the ultimate Christmas nightmare. What to do? She did not have unlimited funds and had spent most of her Christmas budget on the now stolen presents. For my mother, this was the equivalent of the gale force winds hurling themselves against the house during the storm of the century. Christmas was ruined. No ifs ands or buts about it. Right?

Not really. I remember that Christmas as the best ever. Instead of giving up or spending the rest of the Christmas countdown frantically tracking down each present on her shopping list a second time, my mother decided to simplify things. She purchased the one item each of us really and truly wanted. And she spent the rest of the holiday season at home with her family. Hot Cocoa on a cold winter night. Christmas carols. Stringing popcorn and decorating the tree. Baking cookies. Playing scrabble. Sitting by the fire. Just being together as a family meant more to me than any Cabbage Patch Doll or Barbie RV would have. That Christmas, more than any other, stands out in my memory because it was built on love without all the other things to get in the way.

And when Christmas Eve came and the family went together to midnight mass, it seemed like we were ready to welcome Jesus into our hearts and our home. Which when you get right down to it, is really the whole point of Advent, isn’t it?

Loving God, Only 24 days to go until Christmas. Help us to be sensible men and women who spend this time readying to welcome you into our hearts and homes. Do not let us get too distracted by the pressures of the season. Gift us with the wisdom and strength we need to give up our foolish ways. Decorate our hearts with your love. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen

--Susan Rose


Blogger see-through faith said...

"Unfortunately, many were too busy preparing for Christmas to attend!"

OK I confess.
I laughed at this :)

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Katie Kat said...

I really like this--remembering the practical things that come with preparation--like getting ready for hope.

Blessings of miracles this holiday season (Christmas & Hanukkah - the miracle or virgin birth and the miracle of lights)

1:05 PM  

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