Merry Christmas Forever!

Merry Christmas!

In January, this rings hollow, doesn’t it?  It shouldn’t, though.  The Church tells us that the Christmas season continues until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 11.  However, the rest of society (and the tree that our neighbor unceremoniously dumped outside on the 26th}, tells us that it is over.

Here’s the thing, though. Christmas is never over!

When Jesus was born into the world, a new era began.  Everything changed.  The reign of darkness had come to an end, and the Light illuminated a once dreary landscape.  Hearts open to grace could now rejoice and rejoice fully, for Hope had broken into a world sick with despair and emptiness.  The Day of the Lord had arrived!

Seven centuries before the birth of Christ, Isaiah proclaimed;

“Rejoice heartily in the Lord.  In my God, is the joy of my soul.” – 61:10

When I first heard this, really heard this, it was the third Sunday of Advent, for it was a verse from the first reading.  Maeve and I thought that the verse was worth further reflection, so we memorized it and made it part of our shared prayer.  We even inserted it into our Christmas newsletter.

Is God really the joy of my soul?  Or do I take joy in lesser realities? The answer to both is “yes.”  Yet, the difference between the two could hardly be greater.

When my happiness comes from the world – sensual pleasures for instance – it is fleeting, shallow, and soon forgotten.

When joy comes from God, what courses through me has an essentially timeless feel and spills over into an intense expectation. The expectation is that the joy I’m experiencing will be endless, boundless, and complete.  In the center of my being, I know that one day I will be engaged in this… ecstatic dance forever.

All it takes is  dying, as St. Paul wrote;

“If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. ”          -Romans 6:8

The ending of the Prayer of St. Francis is;

“It is in dying that we are born into eternal life.”

Jesus was born so that we could be born into eternal life.  Why wait until the next life?  It all starts now, right now, as we “rejoice heartily in the Lord.”

Merry Christmas…..forever!