One of the busiest times of the year is now coming to an end. For the past month, we have been running around buying presents, planning parties, sending Christmas cards and visiting family. It can be hectic and exhausting. Despite the beauty of the holiday season, we may be sitting here today glad that it is coming to an end and happy that we will soon be returning to our regularly scheduled lives.
However, as we begin a new year, it is a good opportunity for us to ask ourselves what all the rushing around in our lives is about. We are so busy but what are we really accomplishing? Is what we are doing really that important? Is it getting us anywhere? Or is it just a way to make us feel important or a way of avoiding relating in a real way to those around us? Do we make time for God in our jam packed schedule or does He get lost in the details of the day?
As members of a society that so prizes accomplishments and busy-work, we are blessed with today’s feast. It forces us to slow down and reflect on the reason for the season. It stops us in our tracks, tugs us by the sleeve and whispers in our ears, “There is more to your life than keeping busy.”
Today’s gospel reading helps us to understand how it is we are to live in a world that never stops spinning.
First of all, we are told that after the angels appeared to the shepherds, they “went in haste” to Bethlehem to find Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus. There is one other time in Luke’s gospel that we hear someone going somewhere in haste. It is Mary, after the angel Gabriel appears to her, who goes in haste to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who also had become pregnant. Mary and the shepherds rushed to see for themselves what the angels had told them would happen.
In our busy lives, we make haste for just about everything - work, family, sports. But do we make haste to do God’s will? Do we make haste to pray, to go to Mass or to go to confession? If we are going to make any sense of our life, we are going to have to find some place for God in it on a daily basis. We have to schedule time for prayer, reflection and spiritual reading just as we would schedule any other appointment or event. We have to make it a priority and then make haste to keep our appointment with God everyday.
Secondly, we hear that the shepherds went out from Bethlehem to tell everyone what they had seen.
If we were to see a good movie or if we were to hear a good song on the radio, we would be quick to tell our friends about it. Is the same true about our faith? Are we willing to share with others the peace and joy that come from a sustaining relationship with God? Are we willing to defend our beliefs and explain them to those who misunderstand or misrepresent them?
In today’s world where God and faith are getting crowded out by materialism it is more important than ever that we, like the shepherds, tell others what we have seen. We may be the only practicing Catholic someone may meet. If we are not willing to witness to God’s goodness, how will others come to know His love?
Finally, the gospel tells us that Mary pondered everything that happened in her heart. Up to the time that Jesus was born, Mary had been through a lot. She had gone to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, in the hill country. Along with Joseph, she traveled to Bethlehem to enroll in the census. Then she wandered the streets of that city unable to find a place to stay. Finally she gave birth to her son in a stable. However, in the midst of it all, she reflected on what was going on. She did not just try to endure it and get it over with. Rather, she meditated on it, learning from it and savoring the beauty of what God was accomplishing through her.
If we are to have a centered life, it is important for us everyday to look back on what is going on around us and try to find God in the midst of it all. Where is God leading us? What is He trying to tell us? It is good for us every now and then during the day to stop, take a deep breath and just enjoy the moment. Everything is a gift from God. He wants us to enjoy it and be grateful for it. Making time to just sit still and reflect on all that is good in our lives will ensure that all those blessings do not go unrecognized.
As we begin this new year, we will have a deeper sense of meaning and joy if we follow the example of the shepherds and Mary by making haste to seek out the things of God, sharing with others the good news of His love and setting time aside to ponder all our blessings. In this way, we will not lose ourselves in the busy details of life but can be sustained by His nurturing love. We will not get frazzled, anxious and overwhelmed when we keep our focus on God and all His blessings. And we will not fail to enjoy the peace and joy this holy season promises if we ponder the reason for all these festivities - the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.