No matter how much we try to extend the holiday with traveling and vacation time and a last party or two, there comes a time when we need to return to our daily activities and responsibilities. School starts up again, work beckons, and we have to bid farewell to Christmas once again. It can be refreshing to reclaim the space that was filled with the Christmas tree and other decorations. We forsake the Christmas cookies and boxes of candy for healthier food choices in the new year. If we’ve traveled to visit family, we return home, put away the suitcases, finish vacation laundry, and settle into our lives. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus traveled a great deal during the first years after the birth—back and forth to Jerusalem, a sojourn in Egypt, a return to their home in Nazareth. And in later years, Luke’s Gospel tells us, they traveled on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where Jesus was separated from his parents and found conversing with holy teachers in the temple. Perhaps we’re a bit relieved that Christmas is over for another year. But perhaps we discover that something has changed in us because of an encounter, a gift, a new insight into the meaning of the incarnation. We can keep a little bit of that with us through the coming year and let it bring light and peace to our everyday lives. Our journey with God doesn’t end with the Christmas season. Jesus is forever, not just for Christmas.
—from the book The Peace of Christmas: Quiet Reflections from Pope Francis
by Diane M. Houdek