It is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but for many people the holidays are some of the most difficult times of the year. Whether it is the business of preparing for the Christmas that saps our energy, the stress of financial pressures that seem to be highlighted this time of year, the anxiety of spending time with extended family, or the anguish of missing a deceased love one, for many of us the Christmas season can seem like a burden to be endured rather than a joy to celebrate. Some of us, other the other hand, love this time of the year so much that we get so into the decorating, the shopping, gathering with family and friends etc. by the time Christmas comes we are ready to move onto the next holiday. Whether we are excited about the holiday season or are already feeling the holiday blues, if we are not careful these next 23 days will speed by without any real effect on our lives, when in reality this season of Advent which we begin today is exactly what we need either to temper the holiday spirit or bring comfort to the holiday blues.
One of the hardest lessons to learn growing up is that life is not fair. While there are many things in this world which are beyond our control and can cause us great anxiety, in some ways this unfairness and inability to control everything is actually a blessing for us. While it may sound odd, this Advent Season we should be grateful that life is not fair. After all, was it fair for Jesus to become a man like us in all things but sin, and die on a cross to save us? Friends, the scandal of Christianity is the truth that the only reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was to die on Calvary. While every other person in the world has been born to live, Jesus is the one man who was born to die. He was born in Bethlehem because He choose to love the unlovable by freely laying down His life for us.
Our unfair world needs the hope that can only be found in the baby Jesus. It is the beautiful thing about Christmas, namely that it reminds us that in the midst of darkness, God does not stand far off. Rather God became man; He came into this world of darkness to bring light. It is Jesus who beckons us to come towards Him, to accepting this invitation to a personal relationship with Him, the Light of the Nations. As this personal relationship with our saving light grows we come to realize that while there can be darkness in our world there can also be true peace in our hearts when we come to accept that anything we experience, He has already experienced. It was God Himself who came and experienced every pain and torment that we can imagine. “There is no fear, no emotion, no worry, no anxiety, no obstacle, no adversity that He didn’t face before we did, and in fact, much more so.” It is the paradox of Jesus, that out of the greatest darkness He brings blinding light and as we come to experience that hope in our lives it brings lasting peace. After all “true peace is realizing that it doesn’t matter what’s happening in your life. Peace from faith in Christ is in knowing that God will give you what you need to get through adversity”
In the midst of an unfair world God unfairly became man to save us. It is Jesus who pulls us through the messiness of this unfair world into an unfair personal relationship with Him. You see “our faith, too, begins with wonder at the very fact of creation and at the beauty of God who makes himself visible.” When we celebrate the Christmas story we cannot help but face the unfair reality of faith. “Since God is our joy, this joy is proportionate to our self-denial and union with Him,” if we truly want to celebrate the joy of Christmas, we must first take these four weeks to step back and allow the radiance of his life to shine through us. For it is through our self-denial, that our union with Him can grow so that when we walk into the Church for Christmas Mass we can truly stand in awe before the manager at how Christ’s light can shine through the unfairness of our world and bring lasting joy and peace.
Regardless of how we are feeling this holiday season, this season of Advent compels us to look forward with hope to the coming of Christ in 23 short days. This first week of Advent challenges us to look inward on ourselves to see what areas of our life need to undergo conversion, so that the light of Christ can shine brightly through us as a beacon of hope to an unfair world. Friends, with hope in Jesus Christ, let us open our hearts to Him this Advent so that when He unfairly comes to us into our hearts this Christmas, His light may shine through us and bring hope to our unfair world.
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010. pg 103
 Robert Cardinal Sarah. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Dias San Francisco: Ignatius (2015) pg. 202.