In the midst of Advent and Christmas preparations and celebrations, most people are being buried beneath to-do lists a mile long: buying and wrapping gifts, baking cookies, cleaning and decorating the house, packing suitcases for a visit home, mailing out Christmas cards, and the list goes on. Where can we find peace and calm in the midst of this flurry of activity?
“One of my favorite and also least favorite songs of this season is Silent Night. I think it’s such a beautiful song … but it’s my least favorite because it’s the one I feel like I can least relate to in my life,” says Sister Brittany Harrison, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco and Campus Minister and Theology Department Chair at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, New Jersey.
This time of year can be very stressful and chaotic. “I think many of us find ourselves running around getting gifts ready, decorating, trying to finish everything on the to-do list … and we can kind of wonder where that silent night is. But I was reflecting on this … and I don’t think it was a silent night when Jesus was born and all these things happened. I was looking at the historical data from Bethlehem and what was going on at that time and it really was a party city when this census was going on.”
Reflecting on the events at the time of Jesus’ birth, it doesn’t seem likely that everything around the Holy Family was peaceful and calm. “Just imagine, they couldn’t even find a place in the inn, and I think we sort of picture them quietly going door to door, ‘Excuse me, could I come in?’ But really it was more like people are packed in the inns … people brought their animals to transport with because they didn’t have cars. There was a lot happening and it was not a silent night!” explained Sr. Brittany. “And so we can get discouraged when we think, I had this vision of a beautiful white Christmas where everything was calm and everything was glorious, but really, even for Mary and Joseph it was kind of crazy. They had just walked over 100 miles from Nazareth, they were exhausted, crazy stuff is going on in Bethlehem, and yet, that is the scene in which the Savior was born.”
It’s great to make our best effort to find time for prayerful silence and reflection during the Advent and Christmas celebrations, but don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t all go according to plan. “He was born not into a world that was perfect, not into a scene that was without its stresses, but He was born into normal human life. He was born into our experience of life. And even for Mary and Joseph, in that time of difficulty, exhaustion, stress—I mean, I can’t imagine walking 100 miles pregnant—He came, and He came to bring His peace as Prince of Peace. That’s why I think Jesus as Prince of Peace is such a powerful thing, because He came into a scene that really wasn’t all that peaceful.”
Prince of Peace, help us to slow down and find peace and silence in the midst of our Christmas preparations. Lord, help us to understand that every detail need not be perfectly prepared in order to welcome you into our hearts this Christmas. Amen.