In the years after my divorce, I had many difficult Christmas’s. But one year in particular, I spent a lot of time during Advent reflecting on the Holy Family, trying to glean something new from the story I had heard for so many years of my life. I tried to imagine being present in this story, and seeing the scene exactly as it played out… I imagined Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem and were shut out in a cold stable to deliver their newborn child. I imagined 15-year-old Mary who was nine months pregnant and probably more uncomfortable than she’d ever been in her life, riding a donkey in the middle of the night. I was thoroughly impressed by her sacrifice. I observed the obedience of Joseph who had nearly divorced his pregnant wife and still didn’t quite understand why things were happening to him the way they were, but trusted and obeyed God. His simplicity deeply affected me.
Then, I contemplated Christ as a newborn in the manger. I pictured the baby Jesus and looked at His little hands, knowing they would be pierced and torn one day… for me. I looked at His little newborn body and thought of the sword that would one day pierce His side, showering blood and water for my salvation. During this time of reflection, God’s grace was somehow softening my hardened and bitter heart, replacing the anger I felt toward my ex-spouse with a tiny seed of forgiveness. As that seed began to sprout and take root, it was almost like having scales fall off my eyes and experiencing a whole new existence. That Christmas during mass as I received Jesus in Holy Communion, my heart was filled with His love. It didn’t change my circumstances, but it changed me. Despite all I had been through, I began to experience peace in my heart and hope for good things in my future.
This Christmas may be very difficult for you and I’m truly sorry if it is. But know that I am praying for you, in hopes that you will let go of any bitterness and anger you may be harboring to make room for the peace that Christ’s birth brings. Just like the little children whom Christ tells us we must be like to go to heaven… believe, forgive, hope.