Well, the madness has started as the countdown to Christmas intensifies. Talking to the staff in one of the local primary schools I discovered Fr Sean had called in during the week and was checking up on me.
Fr Sean asked one of the classes if anyone seen Fr Chris and one child’s hand shot up. The child announced ‘I’m going to see Father Chris tonight.’ Fr Sean enquired, ‘where?’ With total sincerity the child answers ‘I’m going to Santa’s grotto in Foyleside to see Father Chris…tmas.’ I wasn’t too upset, at least I wasn’t compared to one of the elves, Santa’s little helpers.
Last weekend was significant for many people as break, lunch and dinner times came to a standstill as people zoned out of conversations, human contact and the outside world to check various websites on their phones to see which offered the best deals on ‘Black Friday’. Well, I came to the realisation if you can’t beat them you might as well join them. You can never be too prepared for Christmas; I would try anything to beat the last minutes queues.
So searching the web I began to wonder I could find the perfect Christmas gift for my colleagues. For Fr Canny I was thinking either or a puncture repair kit for his bike or a sat-nav which would attach to his handlebars for when he gets lost around Inishowen, even though he is a native of the area. Maybe a voucher from one of the local taxi companies might be best for Fr Michael.
I thought about an electric blanket Fr Joseph to protect him against the cold and as for Father Sean he’s a big fan of country music and I discovered recently his father is a far out cousin of Daniel O’Donnell. I suppose I could buy Fr Sean tickets for tour of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ so he can meet his cousin.
Whatever about Black Friday, the readings from the beginning of Advent reflect a similar theme regarding being vigilant. As we journey through the season of Advent we’re challenged to be prepared, to stand steady for Christ’s coming again. Unfortunately in our desire to celebrate Christmas we can allow the anxieties of daily life overtake us. If we fail to make time to listen to the message of Christ and the messengers he has provided for our benefit then Christmas will be reduced to an angst ridden pursuit of presents, gifts, food and preparations.
For many people, due to the commercial pressures felt during this period, Christmas will be a nightmare ordeal. For these women and men there won’t be much peace or joy accompanying the seasonal celebrations. The greatest gift we can offer this year is the gift of our time. The best present we can give is our personal presence to our family, friends, neighbours and those most in need of a comforting hand.