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BEFORE THE CROSS | Make a deliberate plan to stretch out celebration of Christmas

As we celebrate Christmas this year, my question is: How will we sustain it? Will we celebrate the whole Christmas season, and not just a single day?

Remember the eclipse back in August? There was a huge buildup beforehand. As the eclipse progressed, excitement mounted. Then, about 30 seconds after totality was over, everyone just walked away!

Our culture tends to celebrate events that way. We don't sustain them — we turn to something else right away. So, the day after Christmas, television stations move on to the football playoffs and stores stock their shelves for Valentine's Day. After that it will be March Madness and Easter. We're always rushing ahead to the next thing. Eventually it wears us out.

Can we develop a different sense of time?

After all, Christmas season stretches out — but our culture stretches out over days and weeks before Christmas. What if we followed the liturgical calendar instead, and stretched out the Christmas season for the days and weeks after Christmas Day?

If we develop the ability to celebrate more deeply, it might allow us to prepare with greater patience. With greater patience, our Christmas preparations and celebrations might become less frantic and more peaceful. Then people might see us and say: "I want what they have! How do I get that?" That can become our opportunity to proclaim Jesus, and how He's become the Lord of time in our lives.

It doesn't matter so much whether our plan is big or small. The point is to make it deliberate.

When the Shepherds heard the angel's glad tidings they said: "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem" (Luke 2:15). Let's go to Bethlehem, too — not just on Christmas day, but over and over in our hearts and with our lives. This year, let's allow the truth of Christmas Day to stretch out and reorganize our sense of time.

Stretch your Christmas celebration for the whole season — the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 25) to Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Jan. 8). Every day, do one little thing to celebrate Christmas. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Go to Mass on a weekday.
  • Write a letter to someone.
  • Say a prayer for someone who sent you a Christmas card.
  • When you remember someone or something from a Christmas past, pause and give thanks — or tell the Lord why it makes you sad (that's a prayer, too!).
  • Make a pilgrimage to a contemplative community where there's perpetual adoration — "O come, let us adore him!"
  • Plan a service event with friends or family — but plan it for February or March, when the flood of Christmas volunteers has dwindled.
  • Give a little gift to somebody every day.
  • Read a chapter or two of one of the Gospels every day.
  • Pray the Rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet or other prayer.
  • Do a kind deed for a neighbor — shovel snow off the driveway, bring in trash cans, etc.
  • Collect toys no longer being used and donate them to a toy drive.
  • Visit an elderly relative, friend or parishioner. Call a local nursing home or adult day center and inquire about volunteering for a day or on a regular basis.\
  • Resist the temptation to remove all signs of Christmas immediately — especially your Nativity set. If you don't already have any Christian symbols or artwork in your home, commit to obtaining one or more. 

Mortal! We Spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of our year. We live the whole 365. So is it true of the Child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men's hearts one day of the year, but in all days of the year.

— The Spirit of Christmas Present (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol) 

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