I nestled into my recliner while my husband carried the last bin of Christmas decorations to the basement. Though I was relieved that we’d finished taking everything down both inside and out, I was reluctant to let go of Christmas 2020. This sentiment was unexpected as, like many of us, I couldn’t wait to say good-bye to this year which was filled with so much suffering, so many losses, our collective unhappiness and restlessness. Still, something urged me not to write off Year 2020. As I considered this, I noticed the basket of Christmas cards resting on the hearth. How had Mike and I managed to take down our family Christmas stockings and the greenery from the mantel without noticing the bulging basket below them? Though my first inclination was to empty that basket and walk it down to the basement, a card caught my eye and I thought better of it. The card which featured our grandchildren and their parents urged me on. What other treasures were calling me back to that basketful of greetings?
With that, I set the basket in my lap and reread all of our Christmas cards and letters. Though I’d read each one the day it arrived, I sometimes did so too quickly to fully appreciate its message. This time, I savored every word. As I read through the cards, the glow of our Christmas tree and the numerous lights that were strung about the house seemed to return. Each card’s artwork and greeting gave a bit of life to my Christmas Spirit. The personal messages, letters and signatures before me filled me up with affection for their senders. It didn’t take long for me to recapture my Christmas mindset and the resounding joy which had accompanied it just a few weeks ago. I’d forgotten the fatigue which sent me to that recliner. Suddenly, I found myself with all of the time in the world to celebrate the promise of Christmas 2020 once again.
An hour later, I carried our now-empty Christmas card basket to the basement. On the trip back up the stairs, it occurred to me that Christmas was never meant to be tucked away in our basements, garages and attics after just a few weeks. No, Christmas is meant to have a lasting presence which carries us through the months and year ahead. The church helps us in this regard as we enter into Ordinary Time. The Sundays after the Christmas Season are numbered until Lent begins. It’s almost as though we’re ticking off the weeks, using each one to become as familiar as possible with this Jesus whose birth we celebrated with all of the fanfare the pandemic allowed. It occurs to me that the more we get to know Jesus, the more his ways call us to live as he lived. My short interlude with those Christmas cards gave me a taste of the joy and contentment that come with keeping Jesus’ message in the forefront of my life. Keeping up this momentum throughout New Year 2021 is the challenge. How do I begin?
I find encouragement in the scripture passages for this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the first reading (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19), an unrecognizable call wakens young Samuel several times one night. At first, Samuel assumes that the strange voice is the elderly Eli who has taken Samuel into his care. Only after Samuel wakes him three times does Eli explain that it must be God who is calling. The next time he’s called, Samuel responds, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel reminds me that I must learn to listen as well. In the second reading (1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20), Paul stresses the importance of responding to God’s call to share the gift of ourselves with one another. Our presence to those who need us is the most precious means we have to bring God to one another. As I consider Paul’s lesson, I recall that Paul had to be struck blind in order for God to get his attention. Paul encourages us not to be so stubborn! In the gospel (John 1:35-42), when John the Baptist finally sees Jesus, he announces to the crowd, “Behold, the lamb of God.” Two disciples who hear John’s invitation say nothing, but they do follow Jesus. Jesus immediately notices the pair who have joined him. So begins the friendship which changed their lives forever. Yes, I need to respond to God’s call as well.
Perhaps it was no accident that Mike and I forgot to pack away our Christmas card basket. Perhaps that call to my recliner was as providential as the encounters described in today’s scripture passages. Perhaps our journey through Ordinary Time is providential as well. Each of these opportunities reveals God at work in our lives. Jesus, the stone mason-turned-preacher, calls us to care for those we meet along the way just as he did. The message here is to respond by bringing our extraordinary ordinary selves to those we’ve been given to love. We begin by opening ourselves to God’s presence in our own lives. When we do, we can’t help sharing what we find. As difficult as Year 2021 may be at the onset, it is the setting in which we’ll hear God’s call to care for one another again and again. It’s up to us to respond as best we can and as only we can.
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