After the calendar turns over its last page and the New Year’s celebrations have come and gone, I’m the one stubbornly still telling people “Merry Christmas!,” no matter what crazy looks I get. I’m listening to Christmas music as I type this, and the Magi of my Nativity scene are still over on a bookcase, making their way to their destination. I’m a staunch and obstinate celebrator of the Christmas season.
Even though we still have a few days left of Christmas, most of us have had to return to our normal lives. The trees may still be up in our homes, but the presents are opened and gone. And while I highly encourage Epiphany parties, most parties are a thing of last month. Work has resumed, even for those of us who get generous time off for the holiday.
Every time I see a Christmas tree sitting at the curb, I hear the voice of Bob from Sesame Street in their 1978 Christmas special: “When Christmas time is over and presents put away, don’t be sad.” He says, “even when it’s over, there’s something you can do to make Christmas last.”
He proceeds to sing about the possibility of keeping Christmas with you “all through the year,” although his action plan is a bit lacking. His tips are insipid, like “think of this Christmas day / when Christmas is far away,” and “these precious moments / hold them very dear.” He finally gets a little closer to practical advice at the end when he reminds us “Christmas means the spirit of giving- peace and joy to you—the goodness of loving, the gladness of living: these are Christmas too.”
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As with all Christmas specials, their idea of Christmas leaves something wanting as they settle for the Gospel of “Be nice.” The question remains, though: How do I keep Christmas with me? It’s a question I ask every year when the song gets stuck in my head!
So with all respect to Bob and the Sesame Street gang, I propose four ways to keep Christmas with you all through the year:
1. Attending Mass more frequently.
While preparing the gifts at the altar, the priest prays silently, “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” That is the mystery of Christmas! While every day can’t be Christmas, every day we can enter into the mystery of the Incarnation by worshiping the God who humbled Himself to become one of us. He gave everything so that we—unworthy as we are—can become like Him. Do we take Him up on this offer? This year, let us make an effort to attend Mass more frequently – and more intentionally.
2. Reading Scripture.
If you’re like me, you take the greatest story ever told for granted. Christmas is an incredible mystery, and yet it has become just another story. God became man. This should reduce us to tears. But how often I forget, in my apathy, the importance of the Incarnation. How often I have become desensitized to the great mystery. The stories of Scripture have ceased to shock us. The healings of Christ. His radical call to holiness. The message of his parables. The thousands of years of promise and preparation for the Jewish people. Do I gloss over these stories as too familiar? This year, let us take up the Scriptures with fresh eyes and ears. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you read the Word of God personally and lovingly, ready to hear what God is saying to us today.
3. Pray the Rosary.
If we want to keep Christmas with us, we need to enter into this year with our Blessed Mother. Luke mentions not once but twice that Mary kept the mystery of what was unfolding in front of her in her heart. She pondered, she reflected, she prayed. Christmas reminds us that to be close to Mary is to be close to Jesus and vice versa. If we don’t have a devotion to Mother Mary already, let us ask the Holy Spirit to draw us closer to His Spouse. If we don’t have the habit of saying the Rosary, perhaps we can start this year with a small step: praying one decade a day. Not to mark it off our to-do list, but to slowly, intentionally, and prayerfully say those words while meditating on a mystery from the life of Christ. May we too reflect on His great mysteries in our hearts.
Bob was right when he said that Christmas is a time of loving and giving. But our loving and giving always comes with a price, as it did that night in Bethlehem, as it did the day that Mary said goodbye to Jesus as he began his public ministry, as it did the day Christ gave everything for us on the Cross. Loving and giving always require sacrifice. This year, we will be called to choose sacrifices not required; we will also endure sacrifices we do not want. Keeping Christmas with you all through the year means uniting those sacrifices to Christ’s sacrifice. He is the only baby in history born to die. The sacrifices we endure this year—whether chosen or accepted—will have meaning and power to the extent that we offer them in union with Him.
We still have a few more days of Christmas left. Continue to celebrate to the very end! Yet no matter how stubbornly we hang on to those trees, life will soon return to ordinary time. Let us keep Christmas with us throughout this year by continually striving to make our lives a gift back to Him.