Don’t worry, you read your calendar right. It is only June and you have not suddenly awoken to find that you missed out on the last six months. You are also right that we just finished the Easter season in the Church just last month. I’m sure you are scratching your head then and wondering why we are going to talk about Christmas today.
I want you to close your eyes and think about the Christmas season. It’s chilly out, there are thousands of twinkling lights adoring stores and homes, and there are red suited Santas stationed on the corners ringing their bells asking for donations. We hear Christmas music on the radio and we are hurrying, trying to get our shopping done. Our minds are filled with things to do, presents to buy, and meals to plan out. Maybe we feel extra generous this time of year and we put a few dollars in the donation pail. Perhaps our parish is hosting an Angel Tree and we’ve selected a boy or girl to buy presents for who would not have Christmas presents to open otherwise. When we are out shopping maybe we pick up an extra toy or two for Toys for Tots. We may give our time at a soup kitchen or donate money to provide for meals for the hungry. Regardless of what we do, most often we find ourselves thinking of those less fortunate and we feel pulled to help them. We want them to have a wonderful Christmas. We want them to feel loved, needed, and special. We don’t want them to go without at Christmastime. This season seems to bring out the best in us.
Now, open your eyes. It’s June 20th again. The sun is high in the sky, the heat and humidity are oppressive, and there isn’t a snowflake anywhere to be seen. There are no Santas standing outside asking for donations, no Angel Trees with children’s names on them, and no Marines collecting toys for needy children. We’re planning our vacations and taking our kids swimming. We are enjoying a time when life seems maybe just a bit less hectic. The truth is, most of us aren’t thinking of Christmas at all right now. While it seems appropriate that Christmas wouldn’t be in on our minds in the middle of June, maybe it should be.
During Christmas we open our hearts to those in need. In the summer we tend to not see the needs of others as clearly and perhaps don’t help as much or as often as we could. More than likely this is not intentional. It might just be that it’s not advertised as much and so we don’t tend to think about it near as often. In the month or two leading up to Christmas we are constantly reminded that there are others in need. After Christmas is over we don’t have those reminders anymore. It’s easy to forget about those in need as we move forward when the New Year arrives.
In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus first teaches us the Corporal Works of Mercy. As Christians we are required by God to take care of our fellow man. Christ says, “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink;I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
We are called to give food to the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. We aren’t called just at Christmas to do these works of mercy. We should be performing them all year long. Christ calls us to serve one another but especially the poorest of the poor. He calls us to do this every day. When we do, we are feeding Him, clothing Him, caring for Him. While we rejoice in His coming at Christmas the rest of the year we should be taking care of Him by taking care of each other.
It’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives and fail to see those around us who are struggling and who need our help. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to those who are hungry, who are poor, and who are spiritually void because they are hurting so badly. It is our duty to care for these people. Christ asks us to serve one another with an openness and love that is unquestionable, just as He loves us. It doesn’t matter that it’s hot outside and that there are no Christmas lights twinkling in the night. The spirit of giving and love that we see in abundance at Christmas time should be every bit as visible during the rest of the year.
To quote the song “Where are you Christmas?” from the movie The Grinch Who Stole Christmas:
“If there is love in your heart and your mind
You will feel like Christmas all the time.
I feel you Christmas
I know I’ve found you
You never fade away.
The joy of Christmas
Stays here inside us
Fills each and every heart with love.
Where are you Christmas?
Fill your heart with love.”
Our goal as Christians should be to capture that giving and loving spirit that we see and feel at Christmas time and spread it throughout the year. We should be willing to give of our time, our energy, our money, and our love during every season and not just when we are reminded by those ringing bells, collecting toys, and hanging names on trees. When we engage in doing the work of Christ, and in particular the Corporal Works of Mercy, we see that the spirit of Christmas lasts the entire year through.
“Christmas is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.”
Let today, June 20th, 2012 be the start of your Christmas season. Let Christ’s love shine through you in all you do. See Jesus in each person you encounter and strive to serve Him by serving those in need. When you do this. Christmas will become a year-long celebration. The Spirit of Christmas, that joy we feel from helping others, will become a part of your everyday life and not just reserved for those few weeks leading up to our celebration of Jesus’ birth. Christ invites us to serve others, let today be the day you answer his call. Let your Christmas spirit shine today and every day.