Every year and especially this year the season of Christmas comes to draw us out of these feelings of uncertainty and hopelessness and even at times despair that we have been feeling for the past year or so because of this dreadful pandemic by reminding us that we are called to move out of the darkness of selfishness and greed to live in the light of giving and goodness.
Our feelings of utter powerlessness especially in these times of Covid-19 remind us that we do need a Saviour, one who is coming into our lives and into the life of our world again at Christmas time. But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Is it the presents under the Christmas tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, the Christmas emails, long distance phone calls from family and friends, turkey and ham dinners, maybe if we're lucky snow, stockings hanging in the living room and bedrooms, and shouts of "Happy Christmas" to those who pass us in the streets?
Is this really what Christmas means to me or you? I know from certain people that Christmas is and can be a time of sorrow. They don't have the extra money to buy presents for their children, family, and friends. Many struggle to make their various bill's, rents or mortgage payments.
Many are saddened at Christmas time when they think of their loved ones who will not be able to come home for various reasons or have passed on from this life. Turkey and ham dinners may be only a wish and not a reality for the many increasing some! Just look at the rise in our homeless figures and especially the huge amount of children that will be homeless this Christmas along with the many living in Direct Provision! Maybe it is time for another Christ Child revolution to challenge us in our comforts. I struggle with the commercialism, the hijacking of Christmas, and the pressure the spending puts on people and families, and the more 'stuff' being added to our landfills. It feels like a pollution to me of some sort, that something needs to shift, that as a society if we care about the planet, if we care about each other we can't carry on celebrating in the excessive way we are. Each shopping centre I notice here is a replica of the other, the same big chain stores, the same brands, and full of goods sourced from overseas.
I so want to give local businesses a chance. I understand those caught up in the throes of Christmas preparations, it brings many of us such joy, not least the traditions we repeat, and which our families cherish too. But I wonder if there is a new tradition each of us can start this year, one small change in how we celebrate the season so the excess is somehow reined in. An extra carol service or mass, an hour in front of the blessed sacrament, more giving to charities, a deeper thought given to what might be on the saviour's heart this Christmas.
Season of Joy
Christmas can be a season of great joy. It is a time of God showing His great love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed unity and strength. It can be a time of great Peace which our world in all its fibre longs for. You see, Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before.
The star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for this special child. A special child that brings real joy and peace into our hearts and souls if we let him each Christmas and each day of our year even if his place of birth really does challenge our comforts. In my lifetime so far as I journey through life, I have learned that Christmas magic is powerful, but the power in our hearts is even more magical. Our ability to love one another, to renew our faith and bring hope into our lives and the lives of others, are the greatest of gifts to bestow and receive. Christmas is indeed a time for sharing in gift giving and celebrating, too. And yet, the greatest gifts are not those wrapped in fine papers or dressed in colourful bows. They are those given with an open heart, one wrapped in the lovely ribbons of faith, hope, and love. To quote Charles Dickens' classic tale, "A Christmas Carol," "I will honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year." Words of wisdom that should be echoed on all the days yet to be. As Henry Van Dyke said, "Are you willing to keep the real spirit of Christmas all year through and to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you.
To ignore what the world owes you, and to think about what you owe the world. To put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground. To see that men and women are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own up to the fact that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life. To close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness and joy.
Are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas. Are you willing to stoop down and console the needs and desires of little children. To remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same home with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings with the gate open—Are you willing to do these things, even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas. Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world—stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death— and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem thousand of years ago is the image and brightness of Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas. And if you can keep it for a day, why not always?"
'Tis the Season
"It was only four days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadn't yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our local supermarket store. Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles. Why did I come today? I wondered. My feet ached almost as much as my head. My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didn't buy them anything.
Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift-buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait. In front of me were two small children - a boy of about 6 and a younger girl. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several coins in his grimy hands. The girl's clothing resembled her brother's. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face. She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers.
As the Christmas music played in the store's stereo system, the girl hummed along, off-key but happily. When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter. She treated them as though they were a treasure. The clerk rang up the bill. "That will be €6.09," she said. The boy laid his coins atop the stand while he searched his pockets. He finally came up with €3.12. "I guess we will have to put them back, " he bravely said. "We will come back some other time, maybe tomorrow." With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl. "But Jesus would have loved these shoes, " she cried. "Well, we'll go home and work some more. Don't cry. We'll come back," he said. Quickly I handed €3.00 to the cashier. T
hese children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas. Suddenly a pair of arms came around me and a small voice said, "Thank you kind sir." "What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?" I asked. The boy answered, "Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Daddy said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus." The girl spoke, "My school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes." "Won't mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?" My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face. "Yes" I answered, "I am sure she will." Silently I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving." 'Tis the Season!! Remember that it's better to give than receive.
For me Christmas is…
A gift of love wrapped in human flesh and tied securely with the strong promises of God. Christmas is angelic music in the form of a carol and oratorio with a celestial descant. Christmas is "glory to God," "good will to people," and "joy to the world." Christmas is "peace on earth" for those who accept it and live in unity with God's will. Christmas is a person on duty keeping all of us safe and in good health and a person tending animals, or land, or the sick, or homeless or machine, who senses the upward call and stops to worship. Christmas is a tall green tree which serves as a festive altar for any household which discovers the true meaning behind it all. Christmas is a ringing bell calling a distraught humanity to gladness and hope. Christmas is a glowing hearth gently placed in the winter of people's loneliness.
Christmas is an altar to which a person can bring their heartache for comfort, their lostness for guidance, and their sin for forgiveness. Christmas is the sparkle of anticipation and the steady light of faith in the eyes of a little child as he hears the old, old story. Christmas is the shining star of hope in the sky of all humankind. Christmas is more than words can tell, for it is a matter for the heart to receive, believe and understand. Christmas is more than a time of music, merriment and mirth; it is a season of meditation, prayers, mangers and miracles. Christmas is more than a time of gaiety, greenery and gifts; it is a season of wonder, worship and wisemen.
Christmas is more than a time of tinsel, trees and toys; it is a season of preparation, prayers and peace. Christmas is more than a time of festivities, family and friends; it is a season of generosity, gladness and gratitude. Christmas is more than a time of carols, cards and sweets; it is a season of dedication, direction and decision. Christmas is more than Santa, stockings and surprises; it is about Christ's real care, love and concern for each and everyone of us of all religions and none! You see what people don't know is that our God's love is totally unconditional and even more and infinitely more than that!!
Thought for the week
As your thought for the week, especially during this Christmas season, look at ways you can help create a world in which human dignity, kindness, mercy, genuineness, forgiveness, love and care is respected and where everyone can reach their full potential. The Christmas story is very simple: it tells of a birth, the birth of a first child to poor parents with an uncertain future. So what is it about the story that holds such appeal, that has allowed so many other stories and traditions to grow up around it? Why does it have such a place in our hearts?
Perhaps it has to do with the way it taps into our deepest longings, those things we desire that can help us cope with just about anything: love and trust. There is much generous love in the story, and with it a sense of wonder that God could be so intimately involved with something so simple. Shepherds are amazed, wise men are humbled and a young woman treasures all these things in her heart. In the midst of the love we are all invited, just like the people in the story to trust that God is here and cares deeply as each of us deals with the joys and sorrows , the hopes and disappointments of everyday life especially during these worrying and uncertain times of the Coronavirus.
The Christmas story affirms that we all have a value and a unique dignity that lifts us up and empowers us to move beyond ourselves and to take the risk of reaching out to others, always trusting that God is present in the simple stuff. "Lord, As we celebrate another Christmas, help us to live each moment gratefully. May we have the faith to trust in the gifts you have given us. May we have the hope that overcomes the dark thoughts that sometimes cloud our vision. May we have the love that makes our world a better place. May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace, as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope and joy by the power of the Holy Spirit. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Amen."
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.