by Father Mark Goldasich
Seeing those four letters makes me both smile and shake my head. It’s a code that a friend of mine uses occasionally on his calendar at work. It’s something that all of us, if we’re honest, could put on our own work calendars.
HBNW stands for “Here, But Not Working.” Although physically present in the workplace, my friend acknowledges that his time is being spent on non-work pursuits. These include: talking on the phone; updating his Facebook status; chatting/gossiping with co-workers; playing online games; randomly surfing the Internet. Well, you get the idea. There’s no shortage of ways to be at work, yet not technically working.
Very soon, many people could be writing HBNC on their calendars. That stands for “Here, But Not Celebrating.” This applies to the period of time from Christmas Eve until the feast of the baptism of Jesus (which is on Jan. 10 next year). Although this is known as the Christmas season, sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get people to even celebrate Christmas itself. By the time Christmas arrives, many seem relieved that it’s almost over!
So, why are so many HBNC? How can we be tired of Christmas before it even arrives? Well, an answer might be found in a song, “The Christmas Can-Can,” by a marvelous a capella group called Straight No Chaser. The lyrics say: “Christmas, Christmas time is here and Christmas songs you love to hear/ Thoughts of joy and hope and cheer/ but mostly shopping, shopping, shopping. . . . Heard this same song 20 times/ and it’s only Halloween.” The whole song is very funny . . . and very true . . . and also, in a sense, very sad.
So, maybe this is the Christmas to replace HBNC with NSMJ — “No Stoppin’ My Joy! Here are some suggestions on how to do that:
Primarily, Christmas is about relationships — about God’s love and friendship for us and about our love and friendship for one another. A primary symbol of that is the Nativity set. Do you have one in your home? If not, this might be something to put on your “last minute” Christmas gift list. It doesn’t need to be huge or elaborate; simply seeing that scene in our homes is a visual reminder of what all the celebrating at this time of year is really about. And if you do already have a Nativity set in your home, don’t put the baby in the manger until Christmas!
Another way to celebrate relationships in this special season is to recall your family history. As we hear about Jesus’ family in the Scripture readings, it’s the perfect time to trace our own history. Haul out old photos and videos, tell family stories to each other, pray for those in our families who have died — these are all great ways to keep the spirit of Christmas.
If you’re like me, you may not have written to all the people on your Christmas card list or maybe you were surprised by an unexpected card from someone. Why not drop these people a note during the Christmas season or give them a call and brighten their day?
Lastly, how about keeping your Christmas tree up and your Christmas lights burning at least until Epiphany and maybe even until the baptism of the Lord. Who knows? It might get your neighbors talking . . . and give you an opportunity to enlighten them and encourage them to join you in celebrating the whole season of Christmas.
Be sure to check out next week’s Leaven for a reprint of a U.S. Catholic magazine article by Nick Wagner, entitled “The More Days the Merrier.” This piece will highlight “twelve ways to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, not including pipers piping.” Maybe we can all challenge ourselves to do, if not all of the things suggested there, at least a few to “retrain” ourselves in keeping the spirit of Christmas fresh beyond the day itself.
HBNC? No way. This Christmas, it’s NSMJ!