There’s something about Christmas that makes us think about others and reaching out to those in need. A man worked in a post office and his job was to sort out the mail with either incorrect addresses or with writing that couldn’t be read. One letter was addressed to God, so out of curiosity he opened it and it read: ‘Dear God my name is Mildred and I am a widow living off the pension. I am in a very unfortunate situation this Christmas. After doing some shopping all I had left was 100 euro to buy a Christmas dinner for myself and two friends who always come to me on Christmas day. My purse was taken and I am left penniless. I will be eternally grateful if you can you please help.’ The man was moved at the story and invited his colleagues to do a whip round and they dug into their pockets and raised 96 euro, which he sent it off without saying where it came from. They were basking in the thought of Mildred having a nice Christmas dinner with her friends when another letter arrived, also addressed to God. His friends gathered around in curiosity as he opened it to read: Thank you God, O thank you, I just knew you wouldn’t let me down. I am now really looking forward to inviting my friends over and we will have a lovely day. By the way there was four euro short which I expect those greedy blighters in the PO got their dirty hands on!
There’s something about Christmas that turns our minds to thoughts of peace. Over a hundred years ago when the First World War was raging and thousands of men were killing each other from mud filled trenches, the quiet strains of Silent Night silenced the deafening roar of guns and artillery. Soldiers from both sides crawled out of their trenches and greeted each other as brothers. They exchanged presents, such as they were, and played football, much to the disgust of their commanding officers. That night they returned to their trenches and the slaughter resumed. For a few brief hours the light of heaven had penetrated the darkness of hell.
There’s something about Christmas that makes us put meaning before value. A dad one Christmas morning was delighted to be given a lovely box, wrapped with fancy paper and tied with a ribbon from his six year old daughter. He opened it and his jaw dropped with disappointment to find that it was just an empty box. Seeing how upset he was the little girl gave him a big hug and said, ‘Dad, you don’t understand, ‘You see, its full of kisses. I blew in a kiss for every day of the year so each day you can take out one that’s just from me. Needless to say his eyes moistened as he realized she had given him a present more precious than any money could ever buy.
There’s something about Christmas that invites us to remember who we really are. A little boy was taking part in a nativity play and his job was to place the infant Jesus in the crib and then stretch out his arms and say, ‘Behold the Lamb of God. Just at that crucial moment, nervousness got the better of him and his mind went blank. He was speechless for a moment and then thought what might his mum say if she was being introduced to a new baby. So he stretched out his arms and said ‘Well now isn’t he the very spit of his da.’
That’s who we really are; that is our essence. One day all the rest will be stripped away. What we have, all that we do, who we are in relation to others, all will be gone and just our essence will remain and then we will be so surprised by our own magnificence that it will overwhelm us. In fact we will wonder why did we always look outside ourselves for the happiness that we sought and never thought of looking within where the treasure lay hidden all along.
There’s something about Christmas that turns our gaze towards the crib and causes us to wonder about the mystery of God coming down to our level. If he who is divine embraces all that it means to be human, then the message has to be that if only we could embrace our human reality, with all its messiness, then we too would discover our divine essence. This is not as easy as it seems, to own ones own story and to express how we really feel can be very scary for many.
There’s something about Christmas that when we look at the crib we can wonder not just about a marvellous event 2000 years ago but how could the crib be relevant in our lives and in this community in the here and now.
I mentioned recently the statement made by the Bishop on the 15th of August this year that, ‘ancient places of pilgrimage like Our Lady’s Island still hold the energies of the past as seeds of hope for the future,’ and later looking out from the Altar over a vast sea of faces and thinking, ‘This is about the stable in Bethlehem, this is about Christ being born, and this is precisely what we are about, here in this parish.’ At that moment it was as if I could see Our Lady’s Island as a giant crib where everyone in his or her own way was involved in a birthing process, not of the physical Christ, but of faith hope and love and Christ consciousness in the hearts and minds of those who come here.
The first Christians who arrived on our shores in the year 300 AD were the Christians of the catacombs and not of the great basilicas. That meant that the faith they brought was pure and uncontaminated by later influences when it became more ‘churchianity’ than Christianity. In some mysterious way, their energy must still be a part of this place. If Christianity could spread from here in those early days, as it did, surely it can do so again. The Christ that was born in a stable was a very small beginning of something great and wonderful. Should we not be thinking much bigger as well? When we look in the crib are we not entitled to look with the eyes of faith and ponder could this not also be Our Lady’s Island where the seeds of hope from the past are beginning to spring up with all sorts of possibilities for new life and then think are we not privileged, if we so wish, to play a part in such a great work, and to witness such a wondrous birth.
Lord in your mercy hear our prayer-
For all who are homeless and those in need of food and shelter.
For the thousands of children in our country who live in temporary accommodation.
For all who are lonely and who miss family and companionship at Christmas.
For all who grieve and miss loved ones at this special time.
For those like our peace keepers who are forced to spend Christmas far from home.
For those of past generations who passed down the faith.
For all who have gone before us but who remain present in spirit. We remember especially all those for whom prayers have been requested at Christmas masses
This Christmas may you be blessed with friendship. May you learn to be a good friend to yourself. May you befriend your soul where there is love warmth and forgiveness.
May this change you, may it thaw the cold neglected parts of you. May you know how it feels to belong, may you value your friends,
May you be good to them and may they be there for you, May they bring blessings, challenges truth and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated but may you always be at home with yourself.