Christmas hope, joy to be experienced throughout year

Published: December 17, 2005

By Sister Susan McCarthy, RDC

As a young child I remember a wonderful tradition our local paper had at Christmas. Each year they would publish a Christmas story that was introduced on the first day of December and finished the day before Christmas. Twenty-four days it took to fully get to know each character, the events of their lives and finally reach the exciting conclusion.

I remember the feeling of anticipation as I waited for the newspaper to be delivered each afternoon. My dutiful parents were quick to make the connection between the anticipation I felt about the next chapter of the story and the event we all were anticipating on Dec. 25 — the birth of Jesus.

Anticipation — waiting — is the spirit of each Advent season. It is a spirit that takes hold of each follower of the Christ. We wait, as our ancestors did thousands of years ago, for the Prince of Peace who will remove injustice and end war.

The birth of Christ, which we celebrate on Dec. 25, does not end our time of waiting. For though the Christ has been born, the kingdom, which he promised has not yet fully arrived. We still wait for the values he taught and lived — values of love, compassion and forgiveness — to govern our world. We call this the “already” but “not yet” of the kingdom.

What do wait for?


  • For a resolution of wars and conflict throughout our world
  • For the poor of our nation and the world to be treated with respect and recognized as God’s children
  • For the food of the world to be shared with all who are hungry


And for so much more.

On Christmas Day, some 25 years ago, I made a pact with another parishioner to keep the spirit of Christmas alive and well throughout the year. We promised to wish each other a “Merry Christmas” (and mean it) not just during Christmas’ Twelve Days, but also long after, right through all the seasons of the following year.

Our intent was to remind ourselves that the kindness, love and generosity we often experience at Christmas needed to be celebrated long after the season officially ends.

The gift of Christmas is meant to be celebrated all year long (all life long). Not in the sense of tinsel and bright red ornaments or of cheery music or armloads of gifts, but in the way that we remember and care for each other every day.

The message of Christmas is an invitation to bring the hope and joy of Emmanuel (God-with-us) to so many others not yet able to experience that hope and joy.

The poet Howard Thurman says it well:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the brothers (and sisters)
to make music in the heart.

Sister Susan McCarthy, RDC, is workshop and promotions coordinator with Little Rock Scripture Study.