There are some people who fear, maybe even dread, the approach of Christmas. It is not Christmas itself that causes this fear but something else.
For some it’s the hassle and the extra work that makes them fearful. For others it is the strain put on their already overstretched finances by the Christmas splurge. For others it’s fear of the conflicts that sometimes occur in families at Christmas time. And for some it is the fact that Christmas reawakens painful memories, the memory of the death of a loved one at this time of year, or a tragedy that has taken place.
Where there has been a loss during the year, that loss is felt again, intensely, at Christmas. The sight of others surrounded by loved ones reopens a wound that perhaps was beginning to heal. The result is an intense loneliness. Finally, one’s fear may result from advancing age, with the infirmities and sense of morality this brings with it.
For those who fear the approach of Christmas they can take heart and hope from the story of the first Christmas. There was plenty of fear present in it.
Joseph was afraid when he found that Mary was pregnant and the child wasn’t his. But an angel appeared to him in a dream and said to Joseph, “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary into your home as your wife, because the child she has conceived is by the Holy Spirit.” Joseph trusted God and so overcame his fear and did the right thing.
Mary was afraid on hearing the greeting of Gabriel. But he assured her, “Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favor with God. Mary trusted God, and so overcame her fear and said, “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me as you say.”
And the shepherds in the field were afraid when the angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of God shone brightly around them. However, the angel reassured them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you news of great joy. A Savior has been born for you.” They trusted God, went to Bethlehem, saw the Child, and returned to their flocks glorifying and praising God.
All of us are touched by fear. But we must not allow our fears to overtake us, to hold us back. We need to move from fear to faith. Trust is the gift that enables us to turn fear into faith. And here is where Christmas can help us. Christmas reminds us that Emmanuel, God, is with us! Christmas challenges us to enter into a deeper, more intimate relationship with our Creator, trusting that we will receive love, and always more of it.
We can always work to improve our situations. But we must keep in mind that some things are out of our control and call us to have absolute trust in God. Fear can be an opportunity, even a grace as it can force us to trust in God rather than ourselves.
Christmas does awaken within us our deepest longings, longings which only God can satisfy. As St. Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until the can shower us with the gifts he desires to give us.
- Fr. Dennis, December 22, 2019