Things aren’t always as they seem to be.
The sacrifices we’d like to make aren’t always the ones we are offered.
The fruitfulness of our lives can’t always be seen exteriorly. In fact, we, the insiders of ourselves, cannot always see what is being borne from our lives. In the mundane, ordinary moments of our lives, there rests a significance that we cannot comprehend. Perhaps it is a gift that we cannot always see the weight of the moment and yet it seems necessary that sometimes we do see the particular importance of today, this specific moment, and the way it has a weight that goes beyond what we can presently feel.
The significance of Christmas resonates through the centuries. Yet two thousand years ago, something beautiful and ordinary took place. A child was born. While angels rejoiced, magi traveled, shepherds proclaimed, and a common stable was embraced in a heavenly glow, the momentous event was soon, once again, cloaked in the veil of the ordinary. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus didn’t float through life, walking on clouds or being obviously different from everyone else. Instead, Christ’s life is marked by instances of the veil being lifted, a glimpse given of the reality of underlying glory. Then, the veil is carefully drawn again and life continues with the same significance and yet appearing to be quite ordinary.
In our persistent seeking for the extraordinary moments, we often muddle through the ordinary. I can delight in hosting a meal and then get bogged down in the stress of bringing the details to life. I can be swept away by the ideal of home and then balk at the challenging opportunity to make it into a sanctuary. The veiled ordinary moments are what comprise the primary weight of our lives and yet it can be so burdensome to really enter into these moments, to trust in their necessity even while we are blind to their signficance.
When the glorious heavens changed back to a dark Bethlehem night sky, when the magi left their gifts and journeyed home by another way, and when the shepherds wandered back to their fields, what did the Holy Family do? While being critical lives in the unfolding of salvation, how did they wrestle with the uncertainty of their lives, the nighttime feedings and the unexpected flight for Christ’s life? Most of Our Lord’s life is shrouded in the secretive veil of the ordinary. He grows in age and wisdom is the offered summary of eighteen years of His life. The quiet of the quotidian wraps the Holy Family’s life in a gentle, secretive veil, like the inner lives of most families.
Not much is said of the daily struggle, the daily grind. Not much is said of the sacrifices Mary and Joseph made which they wrestled with offering. Did the Blessed Mother long for more children, even as she offered the Lord a vow of virginity? Did Joseph ache for a face to gaze into which imitated his own features? Were they even wishing their lives weren’t quite so significant even as they questioned if they even were significant when faced with the daily need for bread, money, and security? What were the inner, unknown struggles of this most important of families? Surely, the sacrifices they made were not simply the ones they would have chosen. Surely they had longings and desires which were fulfilled in unusual ways, as a means of glimpsing only a heavenly, eternal fulfillment.
In remembering this holy night, when heaven is revealed on earth in a new way, I am led to ponder how soon this striking means of our salvation would appear to be something quite ordinary. May we experience the same in our own lives. In moments of significance and in moments of the ordinary, may we trust that the Lord is desiring to make all things new, to take on a new moment and imbue it with His presence. Tonight, Christ is born for us and yet that is true of every day. May this Christmas be another opportunity to find Our Lord, veiled in the ordinary and providing fruitfulness in the desert.