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By Dr. Cathleen McGreal

3 Ways to Navigate Through Christmas

As Christmas approaches and we begin to think of holiday journeys to see family and friends, it is easy to imagine being on the go! But a key part of our travels involves preparation: suitcases are emptied and aired out before they are filled, routes are planned to make sure we get to our destination in time to celebrate. During our spiritual journeys through the Advent and Christmas seasons we encounter many opportunities to keep moving. But we need to make sure that we allow time to: (1) empty our lives, (2) air out our musty parts, and (3) plan a route that will lead us to joy on Jesus’ birthday.

1. Empty your arms so that you may embrace the Christ Child. When my youngest daughter, Shannon, was born, her 1-year-old brother was eager to hold “his” baby. Kaiti, 6, modeled her technique: Put down what you are holding, find a good place to sit down, and cuddle your arms together to make a spot for the baby. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ.” (CCC #2014) During Advent, consider if there is something you are holding onto that it would be a relief to put down for a while. Find a good place to sit down and have an intimate time with God.

2. Air out those stuffed up feelings. “Arise, north wind! Come, south wind! Blow upon my garden that its perfumes may spread abroad. Let my lover come to his garden and eat its choice fruits.” Verse 4:16 from the Song of Songs captures the yearning we feel for the Beloved One. We are entering the season of the longest nights and the harshest cold. Sometimes the holidays are a time of harshness and chill – we remember those who no longer are beside us to celebrate, our bodies ache to embrace loved ones who have entered eternal life. If Advent and Christmas evoke loneliness and pain, air out those feelings with someone you can trust. Breathe out the pain and take in the renewing breath of the Holy Spirit.

3. Plan a route to Christmas joy! Are there holiday activities that you perform out of habit? Do they bring you joy? Do you remember how these traditions got started?

One of my favorite holiday stories focuses on a woman who was getting the Christmas ham ready for the oven. When her teenage daughter asked why she cut off both ends of the ham before placing it in the pan the mom said, “Well, my mom always did it that way. Maybe it helps seal in juices.” “But why?” “I don’t know. Why don’t you go ask Grandma?” So the teenager went up to her grandma and asked. Her grandma replied that she had to cut off the ends because her roasting pan was so small. Hams didn’t fit in the pan unless she trimmed them!

Are some of your preparations for Christmas performed because we’ve always done it this way? If so, take time to reflect and make some choices about how to spend your time during this busy season.

But remember Kaiti’s advice, “Put down what you are holding, find a good place to sit down, and cuddle your arms together to make a spot for the Baby!”