Hold Still. Be Quiet.
By Simon Castagna
Student, MA in Cross-Cultural Studies
Usually, thinking about Christmas leads me to cynicism more than joy. I can't quite make sense of the celebration of the ungraspable and immeasurable God entering the narrowness of a bounded creation through unashamed consumption. Christmas CDs lined up in stores, contests for the nicest Christmas tree. The "spirit of Christmas," to be honest, seems to me a romantic invention that justifies our excessive lifestyles. The Christmas "season" starts with the infamous Black Friday, where people die for the best deals... A deep, life-changing message of joy overshadowed by a momentary joy made of plastic and broken toys: that's how I see Christmas. Cynicism, not joy.
So how do I recapture the essence of the mystery of the incarnation of God? Facing the troubling and capturing puzzle of the infinite becoming finite, am I to experience joy? Awe? Fear? Sadness? Probably all of the above, but for the purpose of redeeming my unshakeable cynicism, I have an urge to look at joy.
We are not firsthand witnesses of the birth of Christ; we can't rejoice with the shepherds or identify with Mary cradling her God and Savior in her arms. However, I do think there is a kind of joy we can experience firsthand and hold onto in this season, and that relates directly to the mystery of God's incarnation: the silent joy of Advent.
My parents might have been right: The best part about getting presents is the torment of waiting to open them.
As I reflect on Israel awaiting a Messiah with hopeful anticipation, I can only deplore the fact that we have lost all sense of waiting. Gratification is the word of the season. But what comes before gratification? Can we learn how to wait with open hands? Can we find contentment in having nothing but hope, to be blown away in unexpected ways by God? Can we rediscover the tingling excitement of knowing something extraordinary is going to happen; yet not knowing what, how, when, or even if?
I am not talking about Christmas presents here, but of a much greater gift: the hope of being captured by the divine and of re-enchantment. My hope for this season would be that, instead of giving in to the frenzy that has become the new Christmas tradition, we could learn to stop. Do nothing. Hold still. Be quiet. Listen. Hope. If we just do these things, we might hear God's promises to us in a gentle whisper. And what could possibly be more joyful than that?