It’s been a terrible winter in the Saintly City. The temperature hardly cracked 20F (-6C) the entire month. Roads were so gleaming and slick it was hard to tell if the city should sand them and pray or just put up a net and a blue line. Keeping the sidewalk clear enough so that our intrepid mailman, Mark, could make it through became a constant struggle. The simple act of getting on with life wore heavily.
But through it all there were preparations. Presents had to be bought and a living had to be earned. Life had to trundle on, no matter how difficult it became. New neighbors even put giant bows up on the columns of the house they intend to treasure for many Christmases to come, drawing energy from the holidays past in the house so worn with life when they bought it.
Yet Christmas comes, even in this frozen land. It comes when we all finally stop.
The rest of the year was not as difficult, and there was actual progress in so many ways. Things have been moving along, if slowly, and there is a bit more optimism in the world. Pope Francis became a shining beacon for the world, stepping up to fill an emptiness. Some of the messages he’s posted on facebook this week are truly inspiring:
Anxiety manifests when you think you have to figure everything out. Turn to God; He has a plan. (22 December)
You can’t spend your life in the graveyard of guilt dealing with the corpses of the past. Know when things are dead, know when to release them and bury them. If you continue to work with the dry bones of dead issues, you too will begin to decay. No amount of work will resuscitate a corpse. Sign the death certificate and bury the past. (23 December)
Why are these simple messages so enlightening? Because someone in a position of great power appears to understand the simple struggles in everyday life. And that is the message for this holiday sent in the middle of a brutally cold winter – get on with your life and live it. Don’t fret the details, just be a good person and it will all work out.
It’s been a month to test that, and I have to confess that my attitude has not been as good as it should be. But Christmas is a day when everything is closed no matter what any of us want to do, so everything has to stop. The preparations and running around needed to make the holiday, for those who celebrate it, come to the only conclusion they could – the day is here.
That’s why Francis’ next message came through as quiet as a cold day yet as clear as the bells on the Cathedral of St Paul:
Christmas celebrations are often full of sound. It would be good for us to make room for silence, to hear the voice of Love. (24 December)
And so it comes to the annual message of Barataria on every Christmas. For all of our running around to make the day special and for all the struggles it takes just to get through the brutal cold of winter there is only one thing to understand:
Christmas comes when we stop.
May the day be full of loafing and love, bright with lights inside and around you. May a day apart renew and refresh your life through this holiday and for the year ahead. May you have a day when you truly, completely stop and enjoy the blessings of life and love.