Last week I sat with a young man who told me a piece of his childhood story.
The remnant of his childhood is adult loneliness.
He holds on to pieces of regret and not-so-subtle shame.
He struggles to survive Christmas carrying his past in his heart.
He never felt the love he needed to thrive.
He asked me for advice to get through the season and to calm his anger.
I told him that my job as a priest is to remain vulnerable at Christmas.
That spiritual task is for all humanity.
I reminded him that Advent opens our hearts for something new to be born.
We must create a place in real human terms for love to find a home.
Not a love that is arrogant and short lasting, not flimsy or false.
Genuine Christmas love heals the past and satisfies the soul.
Christmas reminds us of Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Joy comes from self-emptying.
Freedom comes from releasing our grasp on the past.
Hope arrives when we turn our gaze from shame, when our fists open.
Love is born in words of gratitude.
Peace eases into our adulthood when our hearts are vulnerable at Christmas time.