Christmas is about connection. God connects with us
. He comes down to earth as a vulnerable baby to connect with our humanity and to connect us to his divine life. We connect with each other
. Families reunite to celebrate and spend precious moments together. Friends gather to share gifts and warm wishes. People who go to church, whether regularly or rarely, feel a special draw towards the joy and wonder of Christmas Mass. We connect with those in need. Giving to local food banks and gift drives. Donating to annual campaigns. This is the portrait of our usual Christmas connections.
But how can we connect in a pandemic? With so many barriers to getting together, who is on our list this Christmas? Who will we connect with? And what will we do to put the following people on our list this year?
- Jesus: Without wanting to sound cliché, Christ is truly the reason for the season! Putting Jesus first in life never disappoints us. We need this even more during these trying times! Jesus comes in the midst of darkness to lead us from night into day. What are the shadows in your life at this time that need Jesus’ healing light? How can you let Christ into your heart so that it can be a humble manger where Jesus dwells rather than an indifferent inn that is closed to His presence?
- Those in need: Jesus was born into a poor family looking for a place to stay. Soon after His birth they fled as political refugees. Who are those in need around me this year? Who is alone, who is hungry, who has no gifts or no Christmas cards? Who could use a phone call, something in the mail, some Christmas baking, or a little care package? Who could I be praying for at this time? COVID-19 continues to heighten the many needs in our families, our communities, and our world. How can I be more attentive to the needs of others and do something concrete to help?
- Those who are different from me: What does Jesus’ birth teach us about how to connect with people who are different from us? Jesus’ birth reaches across cultural, religious, and social boundaries to bring together people who would otherwise have nothing to do with each other. Poor shepherds come from neighbouring fields with their smelly sheep, alongside learned wise men who come from distant lands with exotic religious traditions. Jesus comes to bring us together as human beings and to unite all of us with the Father in the Kingdom of God. How can I contribute to this work of unity here and now?
- People we have difficulty with: Perhaps the most precious gift you can give this Christmas is forgiveness and reconciliation. Why waste our lives holding grudges or refusing to connect with people who have done us wrong? Maybe we have wronged them and we are too ashamed to ask for forgiveness. Often, our own impatience with traits that we dislike in others can make us lash out. Past hurts can make us hesitant to reach out. Certainly there are some serious situations where the best we can do is to pray for the other person without maintaining contact. The most important thing in any case is to have a heart that is forgiving and compassionate and to act with mercy in whatever way we can. Transformed by Jesus’ merciful love, we receive the strength to forgive others, to ask for forgiveness, and to work towards reconciliation wherever possible. Jesus comes to heal the wounds of our humanity and to break down the walls that divide us. What relationships in my life does Jesus want to redeem and restore this year?
The salvation that Jesus brings to humanity connects us with God and one another. How can we be witnesses and instruments of the connection
that Jesus calls us to have with Him and each other? This Christmas, may Jesus show us ways of connecting more deeply with Him so that we can find ways to connect with others. Who’s on your list?
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julian Paparella is a theology student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Rome. Born and raised in London, Ontario, he has worked in pastoral ministry in Montreal and Paris, especially with young people. Julian strives to communicate our faith in a way that resonates with everyday life, helping people to better experience God today. He is engaged to be married to Marion.