Firstly, Happy Christmas to you all. Thanks for keeping an eye on this blog and for your comments and feedback during the year. Certainly you’ve encouraged me to keep putting a few bits and pieces here and hopefully that will continue in 2012.
Thanks be to God, we were able to travel freely this year and the results of that were evident in the fine crowds attending our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses.
Someone told me that she’d be checking the blog to see what I said on Christmas Day and, for that reason, I’m going to try to remember now what I said 🙂 The advantage of this is that I might now be able to say what I intended saying and mightn’t have expressed the way I should have …..
Christmas, they tell us, is mainly for the children. To a point this is true but, like most things, not the full story. Yes, Children are at the heart of Christmas and much of its enjoyment is derived from seeing their enjoyment as they wake to new presents and want to tell “what they got”. It’s announced with great clarity and detail. The new toys, computer games and so much more. Parents listen to this “breaking news” with delight and thrill in knowing that Santa delivered yet again. It’s difficult to imagine anything more pleasing than hearing the excitement of a child and knowing that all has been done well by him or her. Yes, at that level, Christmas is for the children. We rejoice today with the boys and girls, in our midst, who today witnessed the love of their people made real in the giving of gifts and the bringing of Santa and all his wonderful works into their homes and lives.
Children know what they want for Christmas. Most likely hints were dropped here and there – maybe a toy catalogue left open on a page – they can name what they want and ask for it in the home and letters to the North Pole. As we grow older it becomes more difficult to express what we might want for Christmas or to know what others might want. We then head down the road of trying to pick out things that we think another might like and others doing the same for us. As we grow older, Christmas presents seem to come in the shape of new clothes, quite often sweaters, shirts, socks etc. The giving is well intended but sometimes the gift bearer might not have allowed for our girth or, possibly they wanted to flatter us by picking a size that leads us to believe they believe we’re a size smaller!!
There is, of course, the possibility of exchange and sometimes the giver of gift will tell you as much! It’s good to be able to do that – to hand back something in exchange for a better fit. In the days after Christmas it’s almost certain that many of us will make visits to stores to exchange an item of clothing that was made for a different shape than the one we walk in!
There are gifts too that we can’t exchange or wouldn’t want to exchange. The gift of friendship and family. The gift of good neighbours and health. The gift of Faith. Once given and accepted, these gifts journey with us and for us throughout the year and far outlast the remote controlled toys or appliances that bring instant joy. We are rightly thankful for these gifts today.
Some gifts – and gift is hardly the word – we’d love to return. We didn’t ask for or seek them. They just landed one day, unannounced and unwelcome. We think of sickness, bereavement and, this year in our country and beyond, financial uncertainty. We see family members pack bags and head to other lands or begin to hear them speak of “friends in Australia, New Zealand, England, America” and we know that this is the launching pad for a decision, already made but not verbalised, that “I might go over there and see how it works out”. We’d love to be able to return that “gift”, along with the others but we can’t. We have, in some way, to come to an acceptance of it – an understanding of it …. How?
Sadly it’s not easily answered but the beginning of the answer lies before us in the Crib. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light”. Surely there’s a walking in darkness now and it’s time to see the Light and allow the Light lead us. The Infant reaches out to us and what adult among us could refuse that reach? It’s the most natural thing in the world to take an infant in your arms and, gathering to yourself, feel its sense of belonging come alive. The child trusts us to do the right thing by him or her. So too “Jesus”. He trusts us to allow him enter our hearts and, indeed our darkness, to bring hope and Light. He’ll not force it or demand it but rather reaches out. How will we respond to that reach?
How can we bring light to other people’s darkness? I think it has to have something to do with moving away from negativity, even if it’s well founded negativity. Negative comments and thinking serve only to bring us down. A cheerful word, a sincere good wish and a smile can go far in bringing light to darkness. Offers of help, prayer, friendship and practical presence can reassure people going through illness that they can focus on getting better and know that what needs to be done at home and around home will not be left undone. Darkness, though real, begins to give way to light. We move from darkness by letting go of bitterness and deciding not to bring yesterday’s rows into tomorrow’s story. This is surely the call of the Crib. It’s a call to Faith.
That “Faith” was found in the Shepherds who were prepared to leave their workplace in search of a story told. Security of place was swapped for pilgrimage. “Let’s go and see this thing we have been told”. They did. They journeyed on foot of a message that told them “don’t be afraid” and “listen”. A message we need to hear again. They “listened” and, acting on the Good Word, followed the way given and eventually found everything to be “exactly as they had been told”. These must be among the most reassuring words of Scripture. We live in the belief that one day, even beyond the darkness of today, we will discover all things to be exactly as we have been told.
“The Word became flesh”. That’s where we’re at now. We must make flesh of our Faith and see it not as something to be visited once a week for three quarters of an hour or so but real “flesh” that finds its place and voice in all we do and wherever we go.
We remain then thankful for the gifts received. Thankful with the children and thankful for their parents and families who make Santa real to and for them by allowing him to enter their hearts and minds and count the days to Christmas, as one child described it “there are only three more sleeps til Christmas”. We accept, as best we can and try to help others in accepting, those “unwelcome gifts”.
We can always return the jersey!
Happy Christmas and God Bless you all.