How do you prepare for Christmas?
Eh, to be honest, I don’t like these reflection questions. They’re all somewhat similar. Bishop Robert Barron published a small book called Advent Gospel Reflections, which I’ve been studying with my church’s Bible study group. His reflection questions are much better. Food for thought for next year.
Anyway… the context of the question has to do with John the Baptist, who went away from the world to prepare for Christ. He has always struck me as a kind of grotesque figure, wearing animal skins and eating grasshoppers and honey, shouting like a madman. If we were to see him in the street today, we’d think he had some kind of mental illness and should be taken to a psychiatric hospital or men’s shelter.
But as Mother Teresa said, Christ and his message come in “distressing disguises.” We’d have to look beyond John the Baptist’s appearance to absorb his message: prepare yourselves for the coming of Christ. Get away from the world and its entrapments.
Strangely enough, preparing for Christmas in these modern times doesn’t get you away from the world. It draws you into the world because you tend to get bogged down in the cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping, and decorating, so much so that you put spirituality on the back burner. Even when the crazies try to take Christ out of Christmas and turn it into a secular holiday, they should realize that they never truly can. It’s in the word itself: Christ. Mass. The Mass for Christ.
That fact alone should remind us that this is at its core a deeply spiritual time. Even those who are not particularly religious often stop to think about that and ponder the real meaning behind it all. I mean, you don’t have to wear a hairshirt and start screaming in the desert, but perhaps quietly reflect on the way you have been living over the past year and whether that is an honest reflection of who you really want to be.