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Amid all the doing, let’s not forget about the being

These last days of Advent followed by Christmas are a season of joy, happiness, peace and love. We see this in how we feel, how we act toward each other, and in our celebrations of Jesus’ birth. 

These days can also be stressful. I often sense around this time that many of us are tired. Not depressed or upset, just a bit worn out. I think it comes because we try to do so much to prepare for and enjoy the season. We spend a lot of time doing, and perhaps not enough time just being. 

I’ve heard it said that we are human beings, not human doings. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but the idea is a good one – especially at this busy time of year.

We have shopping to do, parties to attend, meals to prepare, and more. All to make sure our loved ones have the best Christmas possible. We naturally want everything as “perfect” as we can get it.

There are also work and school responsibilities. Projects or budgets might need to be done before the end of the year. Students have their own projects or exams to finish semesters. These require effort and time that may take us away from our families and from the “reason for the season.”

The little ones, meanwhile, couldn’t be more excited. That’s how it should be! We adults would do well to anticipate Christmas with as much eagerness and wonder. Yes, the children are excited about Santa Claus and presents, but I know a lot of little ones who are also excited about the birth of Jesus.

All our efforts to celebrate well and make Christmas special are done in love. There are just so many things to do that we can get tired and even overwhelmed.

Here’s a thought for you: What if you decided these last few days before Christmas, and through the season, to take a few minutes every day to just be? Put the doing on hold for 15 or 30 minutes and simply sit, maybe listen to Christmas music, but mostly quiet your mind and talk to Jesus about what his birth means to you this year.

What are you excited about this Christmas? What are your hopes and dreams as we celebrate and prepare for a new year? What would you like to do better in response to God’s great gift of salvation through Jesus? 

To continue growing spiritually, it’s important to think and pray about these things. Life is a journey, and it can become long and tedious if we don’t make time to think about the things of God, to hear the “still small voice” of God (1 Kings 19:12) in the silence. (That’s the King James translation; the new translation is “a light silent sound.”)

It’s hard to hear God’s voice in our noisy and busy world. I was surprised to learn that $916 billion was spent on Christmas gifts and activities last year. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of time and energy. Gifts and activities are great, but do we also take time to think about why we do these things, what Jesus is saying to us, and how we respond to a God who gave us his only Son.

Is our response in our busyness with shopping, gatherings and dinners? They are all great, but I pray that we also respond more directly to God, that we take time to tell Jesus we do all those wonderful things to celebrate his love for us and for the world. 

We’re big-time doers, and we do a lot of good things – often in service to the Lord and our neighbor. Many of us are not as good at simply being present to God quietly, lovingly and prayerfully, with our consciousness centered on the greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. 

I relate well to Martha, who was busy serving – serving the Lord himself, no less. Even then, Jesus said that Mary, who “sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak” (Luke 10:39), chose “the better part.”

May we be both Martha and Mary this wonderful season, serving and doing but also sitting and listening. The doing is special, but let’s also slow down enough to remember the one great gift: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) 

Let’s consciously celebrate that this Christmas. Let’s pray that God will help us all slow down, to be caught up in gratitude and wonder at the reason for the season, and to rejoice once again in the Lord’s presence within us and among us.

(Msgr. John Enzler serves as the mission advocate of Catholic Charities of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and is a chaplain at his alma mater, St. John’s College High School in Washington. He writes the Faith in Action column for the archdiocese’s Catholic Standard and Spanish-language El Pregonero newspapers and websites.)