05 Oct 2022

Remember the true meaning of Christmas says Offaly influencer


Ronan Scully stresses the real meaning of Christmas

With all  the  rushing and racing of  the  Christmas  Day and  week  upon us and most people in full throttle, it is easy to get lost in all of  the  festivities, shopping, parties, cooking, eating, drinking and gift giving.

There’s so much to do and so little time to do it along  with the worries and restrictions of Covid-19. Many of us I am afraid have forgotten  the  true meaning of  Christmas  and what it really represents and what we should believe it to be.  Christmas  is really about  the  birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Jesus represents real love, forgiveness, care, mercy and compassion towards each of us and our fellow human beings on this journey called life.

I believe through my personal faith that we are all God’s children and we should treat each other as we ourselves would want and like to be treated and loved. It is so important because of that belief and especially at this time of  the  year to think of  the  less fortunate and  the  most needy, sick, unwell and vulnerable in our communities and our world, especially with our ever growing number of homeless people and children. We must be continually challenged  by  the  circumstances and  the  place of our Saviour's birth on  the  edges of society.

We must always remember those who may not have gifts under a  Christmas  tree or a warm house or a bed to wake up in on  Christmas  morning or any morning or have no food or drink to have on that day or any day or are homeless or live in Direct Provision or are facing another day of war or famine or drought. God loves us so much and all he asks is that we show that same love, care, forgiveness, empathy, compassion and mercy to one another and everyone that we can help and support in some way. That is  the  real beautiful meaning of giving to others during  the  Christmas  season and it helps us to realise that nothing is impossible as long as we believe in God and in one another. 

The True Meaning

While  for  so many people  the  Christmas  season is about materialism and commercialism and keeping up with a hectic schedule, we should all try to where possible now and then to slow things down and take some time out to not only appreciate, focus and meditate on  the  true meaning of  Christmas  but also to embrace  the  true spirit of  Christmas. Emotionally this is a difficult time of  the  year  for  so many people and families in our midst and on  the  edges of our communities and our world.

Also  the  stress of  the  Christmas  season especially during this time of Covid-19, if one is not careful builds upon stress to destroy  the  holiday cheer of many.  The  underlying problem  for  so many people is that they focus all their energy on what they do not have rather than embracing what they do have and that  for  me is what  the  Christmas  spirit is all about focusing on what you have within you and around you and treating others  the  way you would like to be treated, cared  for  and loved. 

The  true meaning of  Christmas  is to celebrate  the  birth of Christ.  The  Christ child is a symbol of love, light, hope, compassion, mercy and peace that makes this such a joyful season. However, there are some  for  which this message is not enough to overcome  the  depression, anger and stress of  the  season and of life. That is why it is so important to embrace  the  true meaning of  Christmas, you need to reach down within yourself into your heart's core to your soul to find  the  spirit of  Christmas.

In order to embrace  the  true  Christmas  spirit you must be willing to give. Give of yourself, your time, your forgiveness, your prayers, your actions, your acceptance, your compassion, your mercy and your love, and give of your worldly possessions. Do not think of  the  gifts you give to others as an obligation or duty, but think of it as a symbol of your love  for  them. While no gift can accurately reflect  the  love we feel  for  those who are near and dear to us, we can show them that they matter by spending time and  thought  to create or select a gift with meaning or give what is most precious of all  the  gift of our time and presence.

Embracing  the  spirit of  Christmas  also means giving to those beyond our immediate sphere as well, especially those most in need in our communities and in our world. Obviously it is easy to throw some money in a charity collection box or envelope, and that is certainly worth doing and most needed, but if your  Christmas  spirit needs a boost then perhaps you should try something more hands-on and volunteer and put yourself out there. Local churches, homeless shelters and organisations, schools, and charitable organisations can and do usually give you a list of opportunities to give of yourself, to volunteer and help out with their work and their needs in their help of our vulnerable brothers and sisters in need in our communities and world at this time. Embrace  the  spirit of  Christmas  and find  the  true meaning of  the  season to bring more joy and happiness into your life and  the  lives of people in need both locally and globally. 

This  Christmas  if you can and if you believe, mend a quarrel, seek out a forgotten friend, dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a love or forgiveness letter. Share some treasure or gift. Give a soft answer. Call. Text. Email. Talk. Post. Encourage youth and support our elderly. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find  the  time. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Share. Show mercy. Apologise if you were wrong. Try to understand. Flout jealousy, gossip and bullying. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a lot. Be confident. Be against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Go to church. Pray and meditate. Walk. Run. Climb. Swim. Welcome a stranger. Feed  the  Hungry. Give shelter. Visit  the  sick. Gladden  the  heart of a child or elderly person. Take pleasure in  the  beauty and wonder of  the  earth. Give Love. Speak your love. Speak it again and again and be a doer be. Believe.

Open the Door of your Heart

Sometimes when I am visiting my local church over  the  Christmas  season and look and pray at our crib, I often get distracted from my prayers and wonder if  the  owners of  the  Inn ever realised who they turned away that  Christmas  Eve night. I wonder if a few decades down  the  line, they realised that it was Jesus’ mother, Mary, who had come to  the  door and that they didn't give her a room. They instead gave her a stable or a cave on  the  edges of their community, their society.

At least they tried and were moved in some way to do something. Now, if this was just a story about the owners of an Inn in Bethlehem who missed a chance to open  the  doors to Jesus,centuries upon centuries ago, I wouldn’t be writing about it now. But this isn’t about what  the  owners of an Inn did.

It’s about what God did, and what God still does this very day and this  Christmas  time and always. And it’s about what we, me and you, do next. You see Jesus still comes into this world, our world and our lives today and each day. It didn’t just happen once, it happens all  the  time, each and everyday. Jesus knocks at  the  doors of our hearts all  the  time, and we are asked if there is room in  the  inn of our hearts.

And sometimes we look out, and we don’t really like what we see, or we don’t like what it would mean to let Jesus in, and we close  the  door and say: “There’s no place  for  you here in  the  Inn of my heart”. But sometimes, even when we don’t really want to, even when we’re not sure we want to open that door up, we do anyway. And that matters. Because  Christmas  may be about  the  story that we read or hear at mass if we go or went to mass on  Christmas  Eve or  Christmas  Morning.

But that story teaches us about more than just an event that happened centuries ago. It teaches us about opening ourselves up to what Jesus is trying to do in us in this world this very day and everyday if we but let him. And it’s about telling Jesus that, even if we don’t know what it means yet, there is room,  for  him in our hearts and our lives, and we want to be part of what he is doing and we want him to lead us and guide us in our living with our fellow human beings on this often difficult journey called life.

There’s a good chance that if you go or did go to Mass at  Christmas  time, some part of you wants to be a part of that journey with Jesus leading us and guiding us. Some part of you wants to be a part of love made real, of God being active in our world, of a world that can change. That can change hate into love, war into peace, injustice into justice, abandoned into acceptance, illness into good health, orphaned into family, homeless into housed and cared  for, unforgivable  into forgiven.

Some part of you wants to be a part of some type of  Christmas  story. Maybe not  the  one that’s written in  the  Gospels with  the  shepherds and  the  manger and  the  wise men, but a part of  the  Christmas  story, nonetheless.  I believe that God is still active in this world, and God is still writing  the  Christmas  story. God is still writing  the  story of what happened when Christ came into this world as  the  Prince of Peace, and what happened next. And you can be a part of that story.  The  question is, do you want to be  the  inn that closed its doors? Or do you want to be something else. I want to be  the  one who doesn’t close  the  doors to my heart when God is about to do something new, but  the  one who hears about it, and comes running.

When God works in this world, I want to be a part of that story. I want to be  the  everyday thing that becomes holy, not because of who I am, but because of who Christ is. I want to be a part of  the  story. I believe I can be. And I also believe so can you. And so can we all if we just put our faith out there and believe in  the  goodness of one another and try to treat one another  the  way you yourself would like to be treated and loved. As usual a story from my Nana Scully's prayer book might help.

You can have My Room

What to do with Wally? Wally was an awkward and shy child who belonged to  the  church children's club. It was time to hand out roles  for  the  Christmas  play, but what role should  the  teacher give Wally? She decided on  the  inn-keeper. It was an important role, but required Wally only to shake his head and say one line “Sorry, we’ve no room.” Wally grinned from ear to ear when he learned of his important role and he couldn’t wait  for  the  big night. It arrived soon enough, and  the  play was proceeding according to plan.

Mary and Joseph had travelled to Bethlehem and come to  the  door of  the  inn. Joseph knocked on  the  door and it opened to Wally. “Please sir, do you have a room we could take?” asked Joseph. Wally shook his head and replied. “I’m sorry, we’ve no room”. Now  the  boy playing Joseph was a particularly confident child, and while  the  script called  for  him and Mary to turn away at this point, Joseph decided to exercise some dramatic licence. “But sir” he said to  the  innkeeper, “My wife is about to have her baby and we need somewhere to stay. Couldn’t you find us a room.” Wally’s face went white – this was not planned  for! – and he paused  for  a moment before repeating his line. “I’m sorry, we’ve no room.”

“But sir” replied Joseph, “We’ve travelled such a long way and we’ve nowhere else to go and my wife is very tired. Surely you can find us somewhere.” Wally bowed his head, shook it sadly and said, “I’m sorry, we’ve no room.” Forlornly Joseph and Mary started walking away. Wally, now fully into his role, felt ashamed and saddened. A tear trickled down his cheek. Then his voice was heard calling out. “Wait! Please come back. You can have my room.” It may not have been according to script, but at that moment Wally gave perfect expression to  the  Christmas  story. Is  the  door of  the  Inn of your heart open or closed this  Christmas?

Thought  for  the  week

As your thought for this Christmas week and the week leading up to another new year, remember it’s sometimes easy to forget that that baby born that night grew up to become an adult. And when he did, and he was asked what God wants us to do with our lives, he answered this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself."

We need to listen to God in prayer and meditation, who is telling us not to let anyone feel alone or unloved this Christmas or at any time. Each and every one of us needs to let those around us know that we love and care for them. Christmas is a time when it’s particularly important to make people feel included. Don’t let anyone be on their own this Christmas. In other words, open the door, open your heart, and let the Holy Spirit of Jesus in with all his challenges. Many blessings to everyone in this paper and to you the reader, your loved ones and your family this Christmas, this New Year and always .

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