Imagine a small tavern in the Polish countryside, run by a husband and wife, where life keeps the same pace, day in and day out. The couple is arguing, with the husband protesting about how much he loves his wife. The wife turns to her husband and says, “Tell me what hurts me.”
The more unusual an event happens to be, the easier it is to believe that God was involved. For example, a man has surgery, and it reveals cancer, but it is a small tumor and is easy to remove. After some chemotherapy, the man is well enough to return to work and all is well.
It has been said that Catholics only sing in church at Christmas. I am not sure that this is true, but from my vantage point on the altar, I have to admit, it does appear that on Christmas everyone seems to be singing. Who can remain silent when, as entering the church, we hear the strands of O’ Come All Ye Faithful: and it would not seem like midnight mass if we did not sing Silent Night, Holy Night.
Violence and crime always seem to be coming into our living room on TV, but the stories on TV and in the newspaper only overshadow the tragedies that occur year after year, especially at Christmas. What should be the most joy-filled time of year is often the most lonely and despairing for many people. The suicide rate is at its highest at Christmas. For many, this may not be the worst of times, but it is not the best of times either. In our own lives there may be tragedy.
A priest friend of mine asked a group of second graders, “Advent is a time of getting ready…. Who is coming?” They all answered, “Santa Claus!” We smile at this, but this is what much of our culture thinks of at Christmas. A jolly guy, over at Macy’s, in a red suit, squeezes himself down a chimney and brings toys.
A man took his son to the top of a mountain and showed him everything around. He pointed out the trees, the flowers, the expansive sky above, and the tiny houses below. He told his son there was something else down there as well and asked if he could see it? The boy screwed up his eyes, and looked and looked, yet could still only see the distance.