December of 2007 was nothing like what we expected. A season that is usually filled with tremendous excitement and anticipation met us, this year, with a bit of hardship. There was my grandmother's passing. And the sudden death of an acquaintance our family visited weekly. Two potential adoptions we learned would not come through for us. A family member with five young children lost his job. And there seemed a plethora of minor things - among them a car accident, sickness all around, a flat tire on Christmas Eve, my losing patience on several occasions, and much more - small things, but adding moments of stress nonetheless. And we were given a burden of the heavier weight, but at this time I cannot post about it for various reasons.
But as the Lord always reassures with His infinite love, beauty and joy revealed themselves amidst the chaos. Christmas carols were sung every day, all throughout the day in this house. The girls executed many sweet acts of love, adding straw to our empty manger. We enjoyed a beautiful and much-needed family retreat in the mountains, where we reveled in the goodness of winter and snow. I was blessed with the company of all my brothers at once-a great rarity-during the days surrounding my grandmother's funeral. Preparing Christmas dinner for my grandfather and extended family was a huge and happy reward for me. And embracing my good grandfather while he broke down in tears on Christmas day was a marvelous and incredible honor.
It was made very clear to me early in Advent that it would be a time of emptying, not only of unnecessary attachments, but even of good and beautiful things.....for something better. For when the Infant came on Christmas day I realized I had more room for Him in my small "inn" than I had in years past. Not a substantial amount more, but enough to notice a difference. That extra space, carved out lovingly and gently by the Divine Hand of Providence, reminded me yet again, that the best things in life are obtained not with the filling up of desires, pleasures and earthly happiness, but with the stripping away of those very things.
How good it is that Christmas is still here. Before we head into the regular rhythm of Ordinary time, we can bake the cookies we had no time for in December. We can still fill the house with the music of Christmas carols. We can huddle under blankets in our living room and enjoy the light of the Christmas tree. And we can kiss the head of the Babe of Bethlehem, lying in the soft bed created for him as often as we desire, noticing the open arms with which He greets us-in good times and in hardship-every moment He holds us in existence.