Abbey Regina Laudis
I often think of the 'Christmas conversion' of St. Therese ...
When she 'grew up' as it were. It maybe sounds trivial to us, but St. Therese was convinced of its significance for her 'little way'. That one Christmas, little Therese sacrificed her sorrow so as not to disappoint her dad. She heard his exasperated tone when he expressed surprise that she expected her shoes to be filled with goodies from St. Nicholas upon returning home from midnight Mass. She normally would have 'burst into tears' upon hearing such a disappointed tone from her father.
"It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion . . . I felt charity enter into my soul, the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I've been happy!"
Thérèse calls this "my complete conversion" because a dramatic change happened, she says, "in an instant." The permanent change in direction is from being a girl who "was really unbearable because of [her] extreme touchiness" to a "strong and courageous" young woman whose "source of tears was dried up and has since reopened rarely and with great difficulty." She who "wasn't accustomed to doing things for [herself)" now experienced "the need to forget [herself] and to please others." She now had a great desire to work for "the conversion of sinners". - SourceChristmas is very often a time of conversion and extraordinary graces.
Even for the 'unlovable'.
Pay no attention to that label - or the people who use it. Some people use it like the Pharisee who thanked God he wasn't like the rest of sinful humanity.
The mystery of Christmas - the mystery of the Nativity extends through time. Just as the shepherds were invited to Bethlehem by angels, so are the lapsed and fallen away called at Christmas. This night is perhaps similar to the Gospel invitation: The master then ordered the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.' [Luke 14]
I believe the grace of Christmas is an irresistible attraction from the Infant Jesus himself.
Especially for those who no longer feel Christmassy, or who are disappointed that the holidays are not what they used to be, or who are just far away and maybe don't care to, or even know how to pray.
The reason for the void, for the darkness of this night.
Looking out, looking around, everything might be sad ... or just another day to get through. Yet that emptiness can free us - detach us. It can free us to notice something else moving within our heart, grabbing our attention, wherein we can discover the authentic, primitive meaning of the holy day. Maybe it's just a momentary glimpse of a tacky looking creche that awakens, or rather, ignites a spark in our hearts. Christmas really is about the birth of Christ - who came to save humanity and atone for sins - to make reparation, to repair, as it were. It is the little holy child who asks for our confidence and trust - but even more deeply - our love. If we feel no love, have no love, or have been disappointed in love, that may be the call which compels us to respond: "In this is love: not that we have (first) loved God, but that he (first) loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins." [1 John 4:10]
So don't look down on anyone - no matter who. If they are at church, if they are at Mass - God called them there. If they are at your table on Christmas day - love them. Even if they are unlovable - love them, and keep on loving them. Never give up - because God never gives up on us.
Having said all of that, people don't need to hear or read this stuff from a hypocrite like me. Non-religious people tune out the Bible thumpers and moralizers and sermonizers. Ironically, that may be why they sneak into the back of the church for Midnight Mass on Christmas in the first place.
So maybe let's mind our own business in order to allow others to have a Happy Christmas too! Then we'll maybe be just like little St. Therese ... and receive a deeper conversion of our own.
Merry Christmas again and again and again!