Fiction is full of stories of those who, having nothing themselves, give the smallest thing as gifts, only to have it shown that their gift was actually a thing of great value. These stories draw upon various sources, one being the Gospel passage where Jesus draws the attention of his followers to the humble gift of the widow’s mite.
It’s a lesson we could use this time of year especially. I’ve spoken with many people—especially women—who have a difficult time during the Advent and Christmas season because of social pressure to make everything perfect. It’s exacerbated by the selective view social media plays in modern life, where the focus is on making sure you get the right pictures of a photogenic Advent wreath display or Christmas tree. A season which should be focusing on internal matters becomes externalized.
There’s also the fact that many people, myself included, tend to feel a bit down during this time of year. Seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, stress—all those come into play. And when you need to get Christmas preparation finished and a calendar of social obligations checked off, when all is said and done at the end of the day many people can feel rather empty instead of uplifted. It’s then that Advent and Christmas spirituality and prayer is often hard to approach.
The other day when confronted by another well-meaning article about making Christmas matter this year (by adding some more activities to your household—great, if you have time for it), I remembered something Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said in one of her books:
“When the time comes and we cannot pray, it is very simple—let Jesus pray in us to the Father in the silence of our hearts. If we cannot speak, He will speak. If we cannot pray, He will pray. So let us give Him our inability and our nothingness.”
Giving God your inability and nothingness takes some humility. It takes the ability to admit that it’s all you have at the moment. Yet whenever I’ve been able to do this, it’s been a consolation.
So if you’re at the end of another long day, having left home in the darkness and arrived back after the sun has gone down, or having spent the day driving children back and forth, or coming home to a cold, empty apartment and are now feeling guilty that you don’t have the time or energy to look up some creative Advent and Christmas spiritual practices, remember that nothing is an option, if you have the humility to give it to Him.
Image of Mother Teresa from the book Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait.