As we move farther into the holiday season, many people start to wonder — what’s the true purpose of Christmas?
As children, that was an easy question to answer. The purpose of Christmas was to stay home from school, see all your relatives, and, of course, get presents. But as adults, it can be a little trickier to figure out. You start to ask yourself — what is the real meaning of Christmas?
With big questions like that, it’s always a good idea to turn to the experts. Pope Francis, one of the most influential spiritual figures of our time, has many thoughts to offer on the subject. Through his Christmas messages and homilies, we can gain some clarity on the reason for the season.
Embrace Your Spirituality
Strengthening your relationship with God or developing your spiritual life is one way to make the most of this holiday season. In Pope Francis’s 2014 Christmas Eve homily, he emphasized the importance of welcoming God’s presence in our lives and taking time to reflect on our religious life.
“How do we welcome the tenderness of God?” he asked. “Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close?”
Asking yourself questions like this is one way to develop your spiritual life. Other ways to improve your spiritual wellness include meditation, joining a Bible study or prayer group, or even something as simple as spending some time in nature.
Christmas is a great time to develop your spiritual life. But there’s always time for spiritual growth. With the new year approaching, it’s the perfect opportunity to set spiritual goals for 2018.
Forgive Others (And Yourself)
Nobody’s perfect. To drive home this point, Pope Francis reminded celebrants during his 2013 Christmas Eve homily of the popular Bible passage, ”The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2).
He told those gathered that the passage has resonated throughout history because “it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us — and within us as well — there is darkness and light.”
Remember: you’re only human. As you try to enrich your spiritual life, there are bound to be mistakes. Be patient with yourself.
That also applies to the people around you. Forgiveness is key to a healthy spiritual life — and it might even make you healthier.
Avoid Getting Wrapped Up in the Material Side of Christmas
Who doesn’t love receiving the occasional present? Gifts can be a thoughtful, meaningful way to show your affection to family and friends. And while the holiday season is a great opportunity for such meaningful tokens, Pope Francis warned in his 2016 homily that Christmas had been “taken hostage” by materialism.
“If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the frail simplicity of a tiny newborn child, the meekness with which he is placed in a manger, the tender affection with which he is wrapped in his swaddling clothes. That is where God is,” he said.
And while we all may see the sense in his words, sometimes it’s hard to figure out alternatives to material goods. Many of us feel the urge to give back at Christmas, but it can be hard to find a good outlet. If you’re looking for ways to volunteer, start by looking in local areas, then expand your search online for charities you identify with.
Christmas: a Time of Love and Hope
In Pope Francis’s 2016 Christmas message, he spoke of the power of love, comparing it to “the power of God.” As he prayed for peace and unity, he also reminded the global community to practice love through serving their fellow man.
In that year’s homily, he also chose to emphasize Christmas as a time of hope.
“Christmas has above all a taste of hope because, for all the darkness in our lives, God’s light shines forth,” he said.
This year, take some time to reflect on how you have experienced love and hope during the holiday season. And if you want to pay it forward, consider sharing your talents with others to help spread some joy.
Spiritual Wellness at The Esquiline
The Esquiline is an open-to-all-faiths retirement community. Our goal is to help people of all faiths live spiritually fulfilling lives. It’s part of our holistic living philosophy, which incorporates physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual wellness.
Interested in learning more? Contact us online or call 618.394.6400 or 1.800.533.6279.