Thankfully, the Reason for the season still finds a place in the glittering sparklefest that is the shopping centre. Somewhat apprehensively looking for the annual scene of the Holy Family amongst Disney’s fairytale Christmas land, lest it had found no room at the consumer inn, we joyfully found the Child (who had apparently come early) lying in a manger, incongruous as ever. We spent a moment in contemplation of the profound Mystery whilst the hustle and bustle continued around, relieved that reference to the most beautiful Christmas gift had not been completely eradicated, if marginalised, from our retail heaven.
One odd feature was a message that accompanied the crib, ‘informing’ us that “according to the Bible, Jesus was born of Mary and Joseph”. I queried, “Where does it say in the Bible…?” encountering the riposte, “Where does it say in the Bible that it has to say it in the Bible?” Even so, attributing the fatherhood of Christ to Joseph by referencing the Good Book is something of a misquote. As is actually related, poor good Joseph had a dilemma to face: finding his bride-to-be with child by Another, till the angelic dream assured him “the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit” and to take his role as her protector and stepfather of the child. Born in controversy, poverty, humility, and danger; under the light of a strange star that drew seekers from afar, echoed by our illuminations, this Son was and is the brightest Christmas light.
I always start to enjoy Christmas well before Advent. Not because of the ‘stuff’ appearing in the shops, but there is something in the ether, in the atmosphere, that knows, that is joyful, that anticipates. Perhaps some of it comes from a shared, collective sense of preparation for a celebration, and childhood memories. Perhaps it is because, if the Light coming into the world actually occurred on 25th December, the Mother of Jesus would now have been well into her third trimester of a pregnancy which changed the world. In a sense every pregnancy changes the world. It changes the mother – and when a child is born, this comes to pass: each one of us affects each one of the rest of us. “The life and death of each of us has its influence of others” (St Paul to the Romans, 14:7). We are all kin. We need to take care of each other, especially the ‘least’ of our brothers and sisters – the most vulnerable, and those who are lonely. We all need it, and we need to give it out.
Sky gold and white;
Something in the air:
Pregnant with joy…
Waiting, knowing, loving;
HE will soon be here:
The little boy –
A child for everyone,
Born to bring us to birth again.
We are all part of one big family. The responsibilities I feel to my own family are to some extent relevant to a wider spiritual family – friends, acquaintances, others whom I do not even know. They are all sisters and brothers. We are all kin. We are all called to ‘love one another’ with the love that Jesus had for us. A tall order; a tough call: when this greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. The only way possible is to allow Christ within us, the Holy Spirit, to love us and transform us – to confect us into Christ so that God’s love can flow through us. Let it flow.
What if in heaven we there see
those we did not expect to be;
and find that the Almighty, He
is yet more merciful than we?
What if, beneath the different skin
of one against whom I did sin,
is my own brother, sister, kin;
another me, hidden within?