This is a guest post by Michael Sanem, originally published at his blog Incarnation is Everywhere.
“The lovely old carols played and replayed till their effect is like a dentist’s drill or a jackhammer, the bathetic banalities of the pulpit and the chilling commercialism of almost everything else, people spending money they can’t afford on presents you neither need nor want, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the plastic tree, the cornball creche, the Hallmark Virgin. Yet for all our efforts, we’ve never quite managed to ruin it. That in itself is part of the miracle, a part you can see. Most of the miracle you can’t see, or don’t.”
– Frederick Buechner
I used to love all things Christmas: the family gatherings, the long school break, the anxious anticipation for gifts and the magic sense of electricity filling the air. Everything became special and wonderful, right in the heart of winter.
But as the years pass the old electric sense of wonder sputters, the decorations which once charmed begin to look cheap, and the drinks that once gave delight give heartburn. Christmas delights may have dimmed, but in this darkness I’ve found a new appreciation for Advent.
Advent slices through the superficial. Advent calls us to rend our hearts and acknowledge all that remains unfulfilled in us, every desire that remains unmet. It is a time to embrace an inner longing that in our wisest moments we know nothing this side of eternity can fulfill. So maybe the spirit is working when we become a bit disillusioned any of the shallow comforts Christmas can provide.
As I draw closer to the divine in silence and waiting, I find that what I long for is that which is beyond words, beyond images. At the deepest level of soul and spirit, I need God, and nothing else.
And strangely enough, when I realize this, when I honor this ache, Christmas becomes possible again. I join again the whole broken human family, desperately aching for God.
Michael J. Sanem is a Catholic family man living in Kansas City. He teaches and writes about Christ present to all people, especially those at the margins, where he is privileged to minister.