If I had to wager a guess, I'm going to presume that I'll spend these first days of Christmas basking in all that is good in these holy days—the quiet peace of midnight Mass; the gentle joy that comes from taking in the sights of the Nativity at my local parish; the flurry of presents being opened by starry-eyed little ones; and the fullness of meals shared with dear friends and family. There is so much that is good in my life this Christmas.
I also know that at least a portion of these holy days will be spent reflecting on the imperfections of the season. Things like the physical absence of loved ones and the spiritual absence of relatives far from the Church. Things like the heartache of family misunderstandings that always feel more keen this time of year. Things like the longing that comes from prayers that simply weren't answered on Christmas morning.
I have to remind myself that even though Christmas is a beautiful time, it's also a far-from-perfect time.
Every Christmas I also marvel at the Church's wisdom to place Saint Stephen at the very start of Christmastide. How fitting that the story of the first Christian martyr be told right in the beauty and messiness of the Christmas story! The Scriptures tell us that Saint Stephen loved our Lord and King with a heart that was "filled with grace and power" (Acts 6:8). He had the joy of the Lord in his heart, even as he endured misunderstanding, abuse, and ultimately, death.
You see, Sisters, love for our newborn King didn't mean that Saint Stephen was free from the sorrows of the human experience. But it did mean that he would go to the ends of all the messiness for the sake of the One Who came to us yesterday in a manger.
I want a heart like Saint Stephen's, and I'm praying for that today for me and for you.
Lord, strengthen in our hearts this grace and power to die to ourselves and totally dedicate our hearts to You this season.
Karen Schultz hails from the Land of 10,000 lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. As a doula, lactation educator, and FertilityCare Practitioner, she finds joy in helping women to embrace the gift of their bodies. Downtime is found in quiet adoration chapels, farmers markets and gardens, listening to bluegrass music, and embracing the diversity of Minnesota’s seasons. She is a contributing author to our Works of Mercy Study: Misericordia. You can find out more about her here.