“All I Want for Christmas…”
What do I want for Christmas? Or more to the point, what would be best for me at Christmas, and how does that compare to what I want? It’s this gap, between my desires and what actually is for my good, that I want to spend this page of the bulletin talking about.
This is the season where we get very loud conflicting messages. The world tells us we just want stuff, and the Church is saying the world is wrong. And to be perfectly straight with you, I do want stuff, and the Church is telling me that I’m wrong.
And I’m glad the Church has the temerity to tell me I’m wrong! Now the Church could be telling me I’m wrong in two different ways. The Church could mean that I should stop wanting anything. This is a particularly Eastern/ Buddhist approach, and it certainly isn’t what the Church means.
The other option is that the Church is saying that I don’t want enough. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
This is the modern Advent season in a nutshell: can the world convince us to be satisfied with the world, or are we stouthearted enough to say that the world is not enough?
•Entertainment and amusement—can I say it’s not enough? My family had COVID recently, and while I was in a COVID fog, we watched movies and shows. Multiplying entertainment doesn’t make it more filling. No amount of entertainment will be enough. Madagascar wasn’t enough, Madagascar 2 wasn’t enough, Madagascar 3 wasn’t enough (though it was surprisingly good…)—is there any reason to think the multiplication of Madagascar movies (or Fast and Furious movies, or Avengers movies) will ever be enough?
•Food and drink—can I say they’re not enough? Thanksgiving was not too long ago, and my sense of taste had just come back. I ate and ate, and all I got was a stomach-ache at the end of it…
•Comforts and luxuries—once I start down that road, do I have anything to stop me from wanting more and better things, once I think that things might fix me?
So how do I go about getting what I most desire? That gap, between my halfhearted desires and infinite joy, is bridged in an unexpected way.
The crazy thing about Christianity is that we say that the world has everything upside-down. The world says if I get what I want, I’ll be happy. Christianity says if I give what I have, I’ll be happy—or maybe more accurately, if I give who I am, I’ll be happy. The Church says that the way to fulfillment is through finding the One Who is willing to receive us, just as we are, and surrendering everything to Him. Jesus, the lover of our souls, the desire of our hearts, isn’t received by getting. He’s received when we are willing to give of ourselves to Him. He wants it all—our worst in the confessional, and our everything at Mass. If I want everything, all I have to do this Christmas is to give all.
This Advent, let’s ignore the world, and spend our time giving.
Parish FOCUS Missionary
Editor’s Note: Be sure to catch Joseph and Crystal Gruber’s podcast, “A Word from Our Outpost” on simplecast.com, Spotify, and Apple podcast.