There are many things I like about Christmas, actually, as many people do. The joyful atmosphere, Christmas trees, Christmas music, decorations, extra church services (ok, I know plenty of people do not enjoy the extra church services, but I am a nerdy priest and church is what I do), our own family holiday traditions (which of course change over time, but still).
But psychologically what I like about Christmas is the idea of getting the chance to start again, to start over, to see if I can do better in my life with Jesus this time around. This is different from New Year's - it's a theological fresh start rather than a calendrical clean slate/fresh start. There's a baby involved, the life of Jesus begins again, our lives in Christ begin again (and yes, I know that our life in Christ begins with baptism but work with me here). I just have this sense that even though I know we will always mess up, and the poor will always be with us, and we will always be imperfect and fall short of the mark (the definition of sinfulness), there's something about the connection with the baby that gives me hope of doing better, of getting the chance to start afresh with caring for that baby. The baby makes things different - we're talking about incarnation, not just turning over the page on the calendar. The baby will stay with us and not leave us to our own devices - as the baby grows, so will we. We know that we are going to grow. But we don't have to reinvent the wheel, just pay better attention to what has already been given to us.
This sounds like the movie Groundhog Day, in a way, except that the cycle is longer with Jesus. But in the sense that we get to try again and again until we get it right and that at some point in our lives we will try to get it right, really and truly - yes, same idea. Maybe without the Ferrari and the bank-truck-robbery - but maybe not.
In the busy run up to Christmas (the last days of Advent never feel very Advent-y), I don't have as much time to reflect on this as I would like, but my prayer this year is as it always is: Keep being a beacon of hope, Lord Jesus, by coming to us as a helpless baby to whom we owe our lives in the way that babies depend upon their parents. We have fallen short, despite our efforts otherwise. Walk with us, guide us, inspire us to grow into the faithful and loving servants we are meant to be. Help us to be better, to do better, to reflect hope to others in new ways this year, with joy and with thanksgiving.