(Few words shared at Christmas Masses in Kilmovee and Urlaur)
On Christmas Eve we gathered at midday, as we’ve done for the past few years, with children from the parish and their families. The idea is to take a little time out of Christmas Eve and the rush associated with it, to focus prayerful thoughts on the crib in our church. The habit has been established now of leaving the figures from the crib in the porch of the church where we gather for a few moments, say a little prayer and then ask the children to take the figures and to process with them to the crib. “Wherever you leave them,” I say “is where they’ll stay for the Christmas.” A bit of a risk for sure:)
I noticed the children left Mary and Joseph side by side. When they left the church, I considered moving them to face one another so that we could, later in the day at Christmas Eve Mass, place the Baby Jesus between them. Then I thought of what I’d said and decided against moving them. It struck me later, when another child placed the Infant in the Crib, that they had gotten it right. Parents, side by side, looking at their child – side by side, supporting each other in life and in their relationship, side by side – looking from the same vantage point at life’s journey and planning the steps to be taken. The children got it right.
I spotted somewhere on line the card that Pope Francis sent out this year with his Christmas Greetings. It was a representation of the crib, sketched (for him I think) by an artist and the animals were at the front of the crib. The Holy Family was situated behind them. The point being made by Pope Francis was that the family was poor, didn’t take the prime spot and, perhaps, had to be searched for among the everyday things and situations of life. Again, when I looked at our own crib, the children had replicated this – the cow and donkey, the huddled sheep were to the front of our crib and Mary and Joseph sitting, waiting behind them. I think Francis would have liked the Crib arrangement in Kilmovee. A message carried in the hands of children.
Bishop Brendan called me on Christmas Eve. We’d talked a few days earlier about maybe putting a message on our Diocesan Website and he thought it would be a good idea. I went out to his house to make a short video recording. We chatted for a while and then started to record. Unfortunately I’d not checked the memory card in my camera and we ran out of memory – mid-sentence. Bishop Brendan had spoken without script and I thought what he said was good and we both wondered could it be repeated were we to start again. We decided most likely not and that we’d leave the piece as was – abrupt ending and all. Just before we lost “memory” he had said that we exchange presents with each other to show how much we mean to one another and that’s what Christmas calls us to. He went on to say that sometimes a “word can be worth a €1000” … the figure was by the way – the point being made was that maybe someone is looking to us for a word this Christmas. I thought it a lovely idea and wonder what that word or string of words might be? Maybe they’re around an apology or the acceptance of an apology. Maybe they’re around love and gratitude. Whatever the word, needing to be spoken or heard, maybe this is the present, uppermost amongst all presents, that needs to be uttered today in the name of Christ – the Infant at parents’ feet, this Christmas Day.