Part of the Series The Twelve Days of Christmas as Twelve Ways to Deepen Your Connection with God.
The light of the star is leading you uphill now. Bethlehem doesn't sit on a plan; it rests on a mountain. The last stage of your journey is a climb--a sweaty, gasping-for-air ascent toward the light of Christ.
Spiritual enlightenment is not walk in the park. You've crossed snow-covered mountains, crossed raging rivers, defeated bandits on the road, overcome thirst and hunger and fear, trudged on in the darkness against the howls of your inner demons. You're thinner now than when you set out. Older. You're carrying less. In pursuit of this great Light, you've left nearly everything you once thought you needed along the winding road behind you.
Your lungs burn with each step upward, but as you pause to catch your breath, you become increasingly aware of another sensation within you--pleasure. At first this seems strange, for why should such hard work, such risk, such fear and deprivation and loss result now in pleasure?
Then it dawns on you. All you thought you needed, you don't need; all you thought you couldn't live without, you can live without; all you once thought mattered most, doesn't matter. You are free. You feel lighter than you've ever felt before. You shudder with a brief and exquisite happiness, true joy.
You own nothing now but faith, and the two gifts that cannot be separated from it--hope and love. Three treasures available to all but possessed only by those who persevere in this difficult inner journey of prayer, those who traverse their own interior geography though landscapes as beautiful and challenging as anything on Earth.
The way of prayer is hard; becoming who you are will cost you every lesser thing. But there's no turning back now. Grace awaits you just beyond the next rise. Naked now but for the three priceless gifts you carry, persevere--you're nearly there.
Today, I will persevere in prayer, focusing my awareness on God beyond all lesser things. I'll yield all I once thought I could not live without. I'll breath-in the brief and exquisite happiness of this holy nakedness. Faith, carry me these last few steps. Hope, hold me. Love, fill me.