The DVC Youth Choir led the congregation with a pre-Christmas reflection before the 11pm Christmas Eve Mass. Parishioners were invited to remember that our God is here, even in the darkness and pain of our lives. Our Lord Jesus is here. The Christ that made Christmas.
The Church was silent, yet filled to bursting with anticipation. I think, perhaps, everyone was ready for a cheerful, bombastic service, full of the festive spirit of the season; and in line with that, a pre-Mass reflection that would lead into that — a reflection about the birth of our Saviour as a sign of the great love that God has for us, the humble greatness of the people surrounding it.
The reflection we experienced was completely different from what I had expected. It was a sombre reminder of the state of our world today, an invitation to understand the secular consequences the birth had for the Holy Family, and a call to look deeper into ourselves and our shortcomings. It was solemn, it was quieting, it was even a little uncomfortable. Yet, it was no less of a wonderful reflection that helped me receive the Mass with the right state of heart.
Outside of its meaning to the Church, Christmas is a day that people culturally still spend with loved ones, exchanging presents, and being happy (who wouldn’t be with those conditions?). For us Catholics, it’s the day of the birth of our Saviour, so by default, it’s a joyous thing. But I must confess, while I could logically understand and even explain all the reasons why Christmas is joyful and important, I think I never really asked the why. It just … is. It has to be happy. There is no place for sadness, strife or negativity in Christmas. And yet, by inviting us to hold space for all the unjoyful things about our world today, about ourselves, even about the hidden anxieties Mary and Joseph had, the reflection was able to give me a new perspective.
Why is Christmas supposed to be joyful? It’s not because it’s an annual, if brief, escape from our often stressful daily lives. It’s not because it is a sign that suddenly everything on earth would be smooth sailing and happiness for all. “Christ comes to bring us Hope. Hope doesn’t mean great happiness, or that everything has worked out, or that we would be free of pain and suffering.” At least to me, that means Christmas is supposed to be joyful because it’s a sign of better times to come. And not just when we leave this mortal plane of existence — even in the monotony of a daily routine, in the stress of a big project or exam, or in the turbulence of human living. Even in a world of negativity, in our fights against personal demons, in our most difficult times when we feel overwhelmed by things we have been entrusted with, happiness and goodness can be born.
“…if you've ever tried striving after God and doing the right thing, you know how lonely that can be… wait, not with urgency or dread, but with peace in the knowledge that God remains ever there for us.”
Maybe we have to work for that, to dig deep and pray for the strength to trust in God and wait for those times, but undoubtedly, that light in the darkness, in the fog, will come. And when they do, we can bring that light to others who too, are trusting, and waiting, and believing.
- Tia Abdi, DVC Youth Choir