A technique for dealing with anxiety is “going to the happy place.” The happy place is a situation where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Faced with something stressful, you open the memory file and imagine being there now, shutting out the stomach-churning stuff roundabout.
Christmas is a great happy place. To escape for a day from the darker realities of life, you can go to church, unwrap presents, have family time and feel the warmth of Christmases past when a glow of childhood innocence and joy shone on everything.
No problem with that, so long as you keep the reality in view. Going to the happy place is something you can do in your head. Christmas is something God has done in the world.
Christmas is God coming to the unhappy place. Into a world lacking peace, he has come to bring peace. In fact, as the prophet Micah says in today’s first reading, “He shall be peace” (Mi 5:4). Peace is in him.
Christmas is so big, no one can encompass it. The God who has created a mind-numbingly enormous universe, who brought forth life on earth through incomprehensible ages — that God, in his peace, has come into our world. And he has come in way that is accessible to each of us — indeed, that addresses each of us. He has come as Jesus, born in Bethlehem.
What this peace that transcends anything we can imagine means for you is a mystery to enter into and experience. It is something that happens between you and this Jesus born in Bethlehem.
The effect of this peace in your own troubled corner of the world is not something you can figure out. It is a gift to be revealed.
You cannot know what help, what forgiveness, what wisdom, what reassurance, what strength, what hope this peace will bring you, or how. It will be the peace that he wants to give you in the particular way he wants to give it. It is the peace he wants to be for you.
In these last few days before Christmas, it would be worth spending a few minutes thinking about how Jesus might be asking you to say “yes” to his peace, “yes” to him.
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series and a writer for the Catholic News Service Scripture column.