Amid the hustle and bustle of the preparation for Christmas, I had been finding myself a little breathless. Even though I knew I should be spending more time praying, reflecting, and enjoying the season, it seemed my mind was full of things to be done, tasks to check off. In every Advent sermon, I heard clearly the message of “Slow down. Be at peace. Be ‘blessed, not stressed’. And I knew it to be true…to be the ideal. Still, as busy as priests are at Christmas, can anyone’s schedule rival that of a mother during this season? There’s shopping, baking, cooking, wrapping, planning…and through it all we’re supposed to be cherishing moments, producing memories for and with our children in addition to teaching our kids about what really matters. But at the end of so many days this Advent, I collapsed on the couch instead of praying or reflecting. Often my prayers were interrupted by grocery lists running through my head. At times the kids seemed transformed, not with wonder, but with new and challenging testing behaviors. I’d laugh with other mothers about how excited the kids are this time of year while at the same time try to determine where the line is between joy and chaos. I’d question how to bring them back…how to bring us all back.
It’s not that I didn’t try to simplify Christmas. Every year we try to focus more on the spiritual and less on the material. I had the kids volunteering at My Brother’s Keeper, and we had a birthday party for Jesus at church. We lit candles of the Advent wreath while praying for the families who’d sent us Christmas cards that day. What I hoped would be character-building memory making turned into, for instance, Brian trying to make all the kids laugh while I read the Christmas story at church. The beautiful gingerbread house Brian made at school mysteriously found its way off of the top of the refrigerator and was eaten down to its milk-carton base, all before breakfast one morning. These are not exactly Kodak moments.
Then yesterday, I peeled an orange.
Seems like such a simple thing, but I had somewhat of a revelation. All by myself, I peeled an orange for lunch. And I noticed something. Just the act of peeling releases a fragrance which is the first joy of this particular fruit. There’s something of Summertime in a good orange, and this was a good one. On the inside were the segments, separate but together. And in each of the segments was an intricate pattern no person could have designed…a thing of real beauty. I examined and experienced each bite of that orange and by the time I was done with it, my breathing had slowed. I was at peace. Because, you see, it’s a miracle. That orange was a miracle. And it carried this message: take the time to peel away the externals to experience the small, sweet gifts made just for you.
May your family experience the fragrance, the miracle, the sweetness, and the beauty of Christmas.