It’s the octave of Christmas – “the most wonderful time of the year.” I’m taking some moments these days to consider why this time of year is full of wonder…and also why the wonder is often overlooked.
The thing about seeing the world with wondering eyes is that it has to be a habit for it to happen with any consistency. If we want to be people awake to the miracle and extravagant love of the Incarnation, then we have to be people who practice seeing evidence of it throughout the “ordinary time” of the year…and even in the midst of the less wonderful times in life.
In fact, if we don’t know what we are looking for, if we mistake the flashy impersonators for the true beauty and goodness, then we will indeed have trouble spotting the wonder of the gospel message in the ups and downs of ordinary life, and possibly even at Christmastime. The joyful anticipation of Emmanuel — “God with us” — is written throughout history, is written on our hearts. He came to make us fully alive (John 10:10) and wonder-filled, to see the world with new eyes, to recognize truth, beauty, and goodness where it is present.
But think what might happen if we haven’t spent the months before December actively remembering and reflecting on the story of redemption history. We might very well — and often do — miss the most wonderful truth revealed to us in our nativity scenes. And even if we suddenly awaken at Christmas and our hearts grasp what we are celebrating most of all — God becoming man to be with us, to stoop low, to share our lot and raise us up in his glory — will we quickly fall asleep again to the wonder of the Christmas message as soon as the decorations are returned to the attic?
I truly believe that we can’t live in the wonder of Christmas if we don’t practice having wondering eyes all the year through. That is why I count the rhythms of our Catholic liturgical year to be such a gift. When we participate in the 365-day cycle of the Church — from Advent to Advent — we are practicing seeing wonder and the wonderful message each day. We are walking through our salvation story and the life of Christ over and over again, year in and year out.
The often mistaken perception of repetition and ritual is that they breed contempt. Oh, no my friend; they breed wonder. Humans never get it all on the first go ’round; we should know that about ourselves by now. But every year in the life of the Church anchors our hearts a little deeper; every return to each liturgical season cleans a little bit more mud from our eyes. So this year, if the hope and wonder of the Christmas season seems to disappear with the festive window displays, I encourage you to enter in more fully to the rhythms of the liturgical year. Mother Church — her feasts, prayers, sacraments, and traditions — will help you see with wondering eyes the evidence of the Incarnation through all of the other seasons.
Keep wonder alive. Merry Christmas!
Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey