Recently, as I was driving to work, I switched on the radio to listen to some Christian music. To my chagrin, even though in my world it was Advent, the station was blaring Christmas music. I was totally tempted to turn off the radio and growl at the culture for not actually preparing for Christmas. However, a new song – at least to me – flooded my conscience: The Heart of Christmas by Matthew West.

As soon as the first few measures began, my soul hungered to listen to its message. At a very high level, the song talks about the busyness of this season and the pressure that we all put on ourselves to get Christmas just right. But the HEART of Christmas? No other than a babe lying in a manger – the feeding trough of animals.

“Yeah, yeah,” I can hear you saying, “That campaign already ran with ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ car magnets. Come on Sister, can you write something original?” My response, “Ok, don’t stop reading!”

As I walked from my car into the Diocesan Center, I thought, “What about opening my heart to the Heart of Christmas – opening my heart to Him in a way in which I have never done before? Could that be my Christmas present to Him?” Hmm. I pondered on this for several days as I answered e-mails and answered the Help Desk calls.

So much of this season is full of tinsel and tiny lights. But have you EVER REALLY wondered what that first Christmas was actually like? A homeless couple, having no place to stay, was given permission to go to a manger, a place where animals were kept. Safe. Protected. But not a palace. You might actually call it shabby. The “shabbiness” of that first Christmas can be reflected in the nicks and bumps and the missing chips that often mark our own manger sets.

As I chewed on this thought, the chips and the nicks came to represent being childlike and transparent in the midst of life’s events. Opening your heart to be REAL; the person whom God has called us to be as well as the person who has been scarred by life and personal sin. The person who can wonder how a Creator can love us so much that He leapt down from heaven and took on flesh. The person who can be frank, guileless, honest, approachable and imperfect. The person who can be humble enough to admit personal shortcomings. It is through these imperfections that the power of the Babe can be lived out in us! St. Paul writes, “[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’” (2 Cor. 12:9)

So bare your heart to Him this Christmas. Give Him a present that you will never regret. As Matthew West sings, “Wherever you are, no matter how far, come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas.”

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness