Does the run-up to Christmas sometimes feel like a wild-goose chase? When the painters don’t show up; the newest dress catalogue is a let-down; the much-awaited mechanized crib is a non-starter, and there’s no Christmas tree and star worth the name in the city shops… As if that weren’t enough, there’s no turkey in town, and we have to literally start chasing geese!

‘A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand or stare,’ W. H. Davies would say. Alas, the weariness, the fever and the fret increases by leaps and bounds as we draw closer to Christmas. There’s a mad rush online, long queues at the mall, frightening street jams, hullabaloo at home. It is as though the celebration is an end in itself.

Isn’t Advent supposed to be a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the Nativity of Jesus? Flippant though it may sound, today it’s more about waiting for Flipkart orders to arrive and set the tone for the Christmas preparation. Where, then, is that time to stand and contemplate the Babe of Bethlehem?

They say the best part of the celebration lies in waiting for it; but that’s only for those who can wait! On four Sundays preceding Christmas, candles are lit, representing hope, faith, joy and peace, all part of a tradition rich in symbolism. Sadly, with a decline in our capacity for spiritual expectancy and enjoyment, we simply gloss over those milestones. We are a generation of instant, material gratification.

It would be interesting to figure out how to spend this time of the year more meaningfully. To my mind, the accent should be on being ourselves rather than doing a million things. For sure, we must have put up the crib, the tree, the decorations; we do need the bells, the light and the music; and without the gifts and the family dinner, Christmas may feel incomplete.

But then, these acts should be symbolic of our self-giving to the Child Jesus; they should not be about self-serving. Those acts should finally translate into works of love towards our fellow human beings, and not make us complacent.

Pope Francis’ recent exhortation on how to spend Christmas is reassuring: we have to incarnate Christmas. For instance, one way to personify the Christmas pine is to resist life’s vigorous winds. We will bring alive the Christmas decorations when an array of virtues adorn our life. Jingling bells must be an invitation to one and all to gather and feel as one.

There is no doubt that the angel, the star and the Magi are some of the most enduring images of the Christmas tableau. Like the angel who sang ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo’, we have to be harbingers of peace, justice and love. We have to be a guiding star to persons seeking the true God. In all that we do, we have to do as the Wise Men did: give the best of ourselves to the Lord.

When our being is one harmonious whole, our voices will produce the joyous music of Christmas. We will become instruments of peace and harmony in society. We will be the light of Christmas, illuminating others’ path with kindness, patience, joy and generosity. Our life will be a gift to everyone in need. The season’s greeting cards will magically convey our tender love and care.

And when everything is said and done and our Christmas dinner is underway – shared with someone who has no dinner to share with us – we will experience the presence of the Divine Infant in our midst. That night will be an expectant waiting and preparation for a new dawn, a new hope, a new life… Then there’ll be no wild-goose chase; we will be at peace with ourselves, thankful to God for what we are and what He has given us. Focused on Christ, we will be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Eventually, thoughts of how life had been a mad, mad rush in the bleak mid-winter, that is, “till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth,” will warm the cockles of our heart. From then on, every day it will be Christmas.

(The Goan, 25.12.2019)