By Benedict Augustine
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Many social critics will say that too many Americans are workaholics. Adult men and women take took few vacations, work too many hours, and fixate too much on income and too little on recreation. Thisobservation may apply to some people, but it would be more accurate to say that most Americans are addicted to busyness, more than actual work. They seek constant activity, both in work and in play, and seldom reflect upon anything lest they make themselves sad. They hate silence; they hate being alone; and they certainly hate being still.
Consider the story of Mary during her pregnancy with Jesus playing out today. More than likely, she would be working through most of the pregnancy and soon after the birth. Her cousin Elizabeth, also a working woman, may exchange some texts and picture with her as they both chronicle their thoughts and feelings of pregnancy through Facebook or some other social media. Mary would share parenting decorating tips that picked up on Pinterest with Joseph, and he would shrug and probably play fantasy football on his phone.
Later after Jesus is born—which was a long noisy and very expensive affair at a luxurious hospital—God would command Joseph to take his family to Egypt to avoid Herod’s persecution. Again, Joseph would shrug and relay God to Mary since she makes the decisions for the family. He would return to watching Game of Thrones on his phone while Mary might try to confirm God’s advice by watching the news and looking up articles online—after exchanging pictures of her baby Jesus with Elizabeth’s baby John, of course.
And then consider Jesus growing up, having an iPhone, having a personal computer, having his daily schedule regulated by daycares and schools. Would the school place Him in the GT class or would His math scores not be strong enough and unsuitable for STEM major down the road?
While envisioning the Christmas story taking place today seems jarring, and even somewhat irreverent, this should bring pause to the Catholic hoping to recover the essence of the Advent season. The story of Jesus’ childhood utterly rejects today’s norms. It is quiet; it is lonely; and it is very slow. Perhaps it is for these reasons that gospel writers little to nothing about it, even St. Luke devoting only two chapters about it. Already by the third chapter, Jesus is thirty years old and finally decides to preach, but before then he lives in obscurity.
What exactly did Jesus do in those first three decades? What was His home life? Considering the details of His parents, the modest mother who kept so many things in her heart and the silent strong father carrying on with his work, it doubtful that they were a gregarious or busy family. They likely shared many moments together without speaking, off on their own somewhere, and completely still. How else could they only think to look for Jesus after a whole day has passed? Jesus the youth probably walked off to pray, look at sunsets, or help his father do business all the time; He certainly seems to have this habit when travelling with His disciples.
Most people today both crave and shudder at this daunting simplicity. They find themselves stressed by the frenzy of working, shopping, and entertaining themselves without pause; but they fear the oppressive boredom that might accompany a few hours alone with all the devices off. Consequently, they side with the former stressful state, feeling at least familiar with it. By the time their vacation is over, they may be exhausted and even a bit jaded, but at least they did not have suffer any awkward moments.
For those who are sick of this busy empty cycle, they can heed Jesus’ most comforting command: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.” These words make up the essence of Advent, of His Arrival. They dare the men and women addicted to being busy to shut off their distractions and place themselves in the serene abode of His childhood. Only then will Christians truly rest, in God and thus in truth, so that they may stop frittering away their time with empty talk, empty company, and empty movement and pursue something everlasting and fulfilling.