I have been thinking a lot lately about keeping the presence of God this Advent and Christmas. Amidst all the busyness and the short dark days, how can I remember that we are preparing to celebrate the Light of Love which pierced the darkness so many years ago? How can I take consolation in that when I am worried or grieving, especially when others around me seem happier or more fulfilled?
St. Josemaria Escriva taught his friends to greet Our Lord and Our Lady when they saw statues and images on their daily walks to work and school. We don’t live in Spain, and so most of us probably don’t see grottos and niches dedicated to the saints placed here and there along the way. What then can serve as our reminders that God is accompanying us, and that everything is good if we keep His presence?
Many years ago, a friend encouraged me to find Christ in the secular holiday decorations as well as the religious ones. If you know the stories and the symbols, you know that Christmas trees, wreaths and candles are for Christ, even if those shop owners and neighbors who put them up don’t keep your Advent and Christmas tradition. Santa himself points to Christ, if we choose to see him that way.
The most ubiquitous decoration, and the one which takes my breath away, are the Christmas lights. White or colored, elegant or tacky, well done or a little bit askew, Christmas lights grab our attention when night seems to begin at 5 o’clock. I am so grateful to my neighbors who take the time to put lights out, because they are a huge source of joy to me and to my children. I try to make sure that I link that joy to a sense of presence of God, which can sustain my from my drive home in the early evening through until bedtime, so many hours later.