Christmas is experiencing the closeness of God. Nothing else can satisfy like this. Yet this is so natural, since God designed us to be in a relationship with him. That is why there is a human race.
Americans begin a huge buying binge the day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday. The hope is that new purchases will make us more complete, more fulfilled. But that is what we tried last year, and all the years before. Did it work? Did it fulfill our hopes? Why do we keep repeating the cycle? Once we have our basic material needs covered (food, clothing, housing, medical care) there is little more satisfaction to be gained from having more of these.
What we really want, and what can’t be purchased as a commodity, is the personal presence of an all loving Giver of all good things. We want what our hearts are restless for – a presence – God in person.
Some of the happiest people I know are those who have discovered the great gift of prayer. In prayer, you simply place yourself in the presence of God, and shut out all distractions. We don’t need to go to a faraway country to find God. He is already here, within. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. In the Eucharist, we consume the very body and blood of the Son of God.
God wants a relationship with us more than we do. He takes the initiative. He created us. He created the Earth, and all that it contains. The only thing He wants, and longs for, is our free response to His love for us.
But love, like a friendship, can’t be forced. It can be encouraged, and nurtured, but not forced. Jesus is waiting for us to come to him, to open the doors of our hearts, to listen with the ears of our hearts, to grow in the awareness that He is present and wants to have a conversation with us.
When we pray, we get close to God. We try to see how all our projects, all our duties, and all the main features of the day conform to his plan for us. He knows what is best, and He wants what is best for us. We must choose to desire his will for us. Thy will be done. His plan for our lives is so much more complete, and exalted, than our myopic plans. But we must want to find his plan, and then desire to accomplish that plan. These are some of the things we talk about with God, when we pray.
I correspond with 145+ men who are in various prisons throughout the country. They are Benedictine Oblates in Prison who want to tap into Benedictine spirituality. During their Oblate novitiate, or year of formation, they learn to develop a prayer life. They faithfully pray Lauds (morning prayer) and Vespers (evening prayer). Some participate even more in the Liturgy of the Hours.
In their correspondence with me they indicate what a blessing they have found in a regular prayer life. They have found something that was missing in their lives. They have found their best Friend, a source of encouragement and strength. They discover new meaning and purpose for living. They are at peace with themselves.
We can find God anywhere through prayer. God searches everywhere for us. Nothing can separate us from God, no tragedy, no disadvantaged youth, no physical or mental handicap, and no human failings.
Advent and Christmas are a time when our natural yearning, our longing, for God reawakens. We have already experienced his encounters with us many times in many ways and occasions. But we want more. What satisfied us back then, can satisfy us now even more. Perhaps our capacity for God has grown. So also our desire for God.
We have an infinite, insatiable desire for God. Clearly, only God can satisfy our restless hearts. Only the Infinite can satisfy an infinite desire. In heaven we shall constantly develop our relationship with God, along with the Communion of Saints and Angels. That is our destiny. But already here and now, we are called to experience something of the love of God.
May this Christmas build upon all the previous ones. May our prayer life be vibrant and rich. And may we all be drawn closer to God.