Recently I was helping out at a nearby parish, and I ran into someone I’ve known from the first parish I served in. That person said that I sounded “seasoned.” I’ve been a priest for 14 ½ years: when I started I used to mark the first time I did particular sacraments, such as my first wedding, my first funeral, etc. As I think about it now, I’m not sure I’m ready to welcome the comment “seasoned” yet; I’m not old enough to embrace the concept. I may get there someday but I’m not sure it’s something to look forward to. Let’s just say I’ve traveled a few thousand miles and I can draw on those experiences easily.
It’s time to celebrate Christmas, and I’m not sure being “seasoned” is an asset here. There is so much about Christmas to take for granted, including disdain for the tacky sentimentality and commercialism that’s been around since I can remember. Having seen over 50 Christmases, I’m more aware of how I’m different every year rather than how this Christmas is unlike any Christmas past. I generally avoid everything Christmasy (with a couple of exceptions) until today, Christmas Eve, and I find that helpful in keeping the Yuletide fresh. However, contemplating another Christmas homily, I search for something new because Christmas is always about something new.
Christmas is about the most important person in our lives coming into being. If we’re honest Christians, Jesus Christ is more important than we are, so the day we celebrate his Incarnation should be central to our lives. Even if we can’t imagine the world without Christ, this day matters; even if we’ve picked this day arbitrarily (and there’s some evidence we have), Christ makes every day new and so it doesn’t matter if we have the right day or not: Christ is born in our lives every day.
This day is a touchstone in our lives every year. We are with loved ones as often as we can manage it, and if we aren’t the cause needs to be proportionate. It is a day where unexpected delight, amazing revelation, long tradition, and unconditional love come together every year in every country where Christmas is celebrated much. Christmas is a heavily seasoned time in our lives, and yet there are few days as universally important to us every year.
Christmas is about Today. Christmas is about what’s important here and now. Christmas is a day of peace, even in the midst of war. Christmas is a day of what’s really important in the midst of a lot of manufactured priorities and ideals. This Christmas, like every Christmas before, we are in search of wonder, and this day, when the most important person in our lives is born, we find wonder, love, and hope.